South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se arrived in Tokyo on Sunday to pay an official two day visit in order to maintain normalization in the bilateral relations which have long been nurtured by historical antagonism caused by Japan’s wartime militarism and the conquest of Korean Peninsula.
Yun and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida on Sunday agreed on stepping up mutual dialogue, the lack of which has been interrupting a full-fledged rapprochement between Japan and South Korea for decades.
The two countries announced they would keep political efforts to negotiate the wartime problems caused by the Japanese invasion, including the sexual enslavement of Korean women in the military brothels by the then Japanese army.
Yun’s trip marked the first visit to Tokyo since 2011 which became significant especially after he canceled his visit to Japan in 2013, after the Japanese cabinet members visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine where they honoured Japan’s war dead, including 14 convicted World War II criminals.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also visited the shrine last October to commemorate and honour the Second World War atrocities, but the move has sparked public outrages both in South Korea and China.
The Yasukuni Shrine is perceived as the symbol of Japanese invasion by both China and South Korea, where bitter memories of Japan's 1910-1945 under the assertive Japanese emperor Hirohito still constitute the backbone of anti Japanese sentiments.
Yun is scheduled to meet with Abe on Monday before attending anniversary events in Tokyo while the South Korean leadership would have been attending its own ceremony in Seoul.
Yun-Kishida meeting on Sunday also agreed to set up a summit between PM Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye “at an appropriate time.”
“We came to share the importance of holding a (Japan-South Korea) summit,” Kishida told reporters after two hours of talks with Yun at the Foreign Ministry’s Iikura Guesthouse.
“We will continue our effort to set up the meeting at the earliest time possible.” he added.
Japan and South Korea have been mending their diplomatic ties since the early 1960, but a real rapprochement just came in the 1990s following Japanese apologies and cultural exchanges between the countries.
However, the South Korean side still insists on compensations together with apologies especially for the feud over "comfort women" issue since 1992, but the Japanese side says the issue was settled in the normalisation agreement signed in 1965.
"The issues concerning these comfort women’s human rights should be resolved as soon as possible,” said South Korean President Park in a speech in March.
“There isn’t much time left for them to recover their pride." Park added.
Even though the Japanese invasion is still remembered as an era of racial and cultural humiliation by the South Korean public, Seoul officially allowed the Japanese cultural industry to intrigue into the country since the last three decades.
Being the most closest US allies in the Asia-Pacific region, Japan and South Korea have recently increased their endeavours to detente their diplomatic ties as China and North Korea accelerated their military and territorial challenges in the region.
Nuclear envoys from South Korea, Japan and the US agreed last month on keeping up pressure on North Korea’s nuclear programme and to urge the North in returning to the negotiation table which was left by Pyongyang in 2009.
The nuclear threat posed by North Korea has been worrying South Korea and its Pacific allies like the US and Japan, which agreed on increasing the close cooperation in Asia-Pacific security issues when the Japanese PM Abe visited the US President Barack Obama in late April in Washington.
The South Korean government called its National Assembly for an urgent meeting to discuss North Korea’s recent underwater test-fires of ballistic missiles and asked the North to terminate all nuclear activities that endanger the Peninsula’s fragile security.
Japan and China have been confronting on some uninhabited islets nationalised by Tokyo in 2012 which Japan calls Senkaku, and China calls Diaoyu in the East China Sea.
Obama has publicly reiterated American-military support given to Japan if needed against China, but stated that Beijing should not consider US-Japan alliance as a provocation in the region.
Abe, who was re-elected with an overwhelming majority in a snap election at the end of last year, has been trying to review Japan’s pacifist constitution in order to build up re-assertive Japanese security vision to which some of Japanese public essentially objected.
Japan’s move towards redefining its new military role, which enables Tokyo to fight abroad, signals a huge policy change from its conventional isolation for the first time since the Second World War.