1 of 2 | Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will visit Seoul for a two-day trip on Sunday, officials said Tuesday, where he will meet with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol amid improving bilateral ties. File Photo by President of South Korea Press Office/UPI | License Photo
SEOUL, May 2 (UPI) -- Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kisihida is coming to Seoul for talks with South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol this weekend, officials said Tuesday, in the first visit by a Japanese leader since 2018 as relations continue to improve between the two U.S. allies.
Tokyo's Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday that Kishida's two-day trip will start Sunday. It follows on the heels of Yoon's trip to Tokyo in March, during which the two leaders vowed to resolve lingering trade disputes and to restore "shuttle diplomacy" after the relationship had frozen in recent years.
The Seoul visit will present a "good opportunity to frankly exchange opinions on ways to develop Japan-South Korea relations and the rapidly changing international situation," Kishida told reporters during a visit to Accra, Ghana.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo took a turn for the worse in 2018 after the South Korean Supreme Court ruled that two Japanese firms must provide compensation to victims of forced labor under Japan's 1910-45 colonial occupation of Korea.
The Yoon administration announced a plan in March to resolve the dispute by using South Korean public funds to pay the victims. Both sides have since made moves to lift trade restrictions that emerged in the wake of the 2018 decision.
The thaw comes in the face of growing nuclear threats from North Korea and an increasingly assertive China. Washington has been pushing for closer cooperation among its Asian allies and the three countries have begun stepping up trilateral military exercises.
Yoon visited the United States last week when he and U.S. President Joe Biden adopted the Washington Declaration, an enhanced nuclear cooperation pact that will include greater information sharing and visits by U.S. nuclear submarines to South Korea.
Japan is hosting the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima on May 19-21, and Kishida has invited Yoon to attend. In a further show of improving ties between Seoul and Tokyo, the finance ministers of the two countries met for the first time in seven years on Tuesday on the sidelines of an Asian Development Bank meeting.
The last time a Japanese leader visited South Korea was in February 2018, when former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attended the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol delivers an address to a joint session
of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on April 27, 2023. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo