Update 1: Adds comments on North Korea
Tokyo/Seoul, Mar 10 (EFE).- Japan’s prime minister congratulated the newly elected South Korean president on Thursday and vowed to improve ties between both countries.
“I intend to closely work with the new president to improve Japan-South Korea ties,” Fumio Kishida told reporters on Thursday, upon learning of the result of the South Korean presidential election, in which conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol defeated the liberal Lee Jae-myung.
Kishida advocated “healthy” relations between the two neighbors and described them as “crucial” for global stability and peace, referring to the alliance that both Japan and South Korea have with the United States in the Pacific.
Bilateral relations were strained during the terms of outgoing South Korean president Moon Jae-in and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe over unresolved historical disagreements dating back to Japan’s expansionism during the first half of the 20th century and in World War II.
On Thursday, Kishida said it was essential for countries to fulfill the commitments between them, in reference to the treaty signed in 1965 to normalize relations between South Korea and Japan.
This treaty comprised reparations by Japan worth $365 million in nominal terms, as compensation for Japan’s colonial control over the Korean Peninsula in 1950-1965 that resulted in an estimated 1 million dead, injured, and enslaved victims.
Tokyo claims the agreement settled the human rights violations committed during that period.
Yoon said Thursday he was willing for dialogue with North Korea, adding he would respond with severity if necessary.
The conservative leader announced some of the general lines of the new government he would lead, in a Seoul media appearance.
He said his electoral victory “reflects a call for reform, the restoration of justice and common sense,” as well as “a clamor from voters to make policies of unity, and not division.”
Yoon said he would react to illegal actions by North Korea or those that violate “principles,” adding he would remain open to talks with Kim Jong-un’s regime.
Although espousing a harsher tone against Pyongyang than outgoing President Moon Jae-in, Yoon said he remained open to dialog, which has remained deadlocked since the failed 2019 summit between former American President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader.
The conservative leader, scheduled to take office on May 10, also referred to China, a country with which he aspires to build a relationship of “mutual respect.” EFE