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South Korea delegation to visit Japan

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South Korea delegation to visit Japan

South Korea delegation to Japan
South Korea president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol sends a delegation to Japan today ahead of his May inauguration – Photo: Pool via Reuters

South Korea President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol will today send a delegation to Japan for a four-day trip.

The trip foreshadows Yoon’s inauguration on May 10 after narrowly winning the March 9 presidential election. The meetings will predominantly cover North Korea and strained bilateral relations in recent years over historical issues relating to Japan’s Second World War occupation of the Korean peninsula. These tensions resulted in Japan imposing trade restrictions on South Korea in 2019.

The delegation signals Yoon’s clear intention to repair bilateral relations, a cornerstone of Yoon’s foreign policy aimed at strengthening Korean-Japan-American relations in a bid to maximise pressure on North Korea. Indeed, one of Yoon’s election promises was to secure US re-stationing of nuclear missiles in South Korea should Pyongyang threaten Seoul again.

However, Yoon’s Japanese detente plans are fraught. While Yoon’s delegation will be well received by Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida’s administration, Tokyo still wants Seoul to shut down ongoing South Korean war compensation cases before normalizing ties—a condition Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in, was reluctant to do. Yet agreeing to this will be highly controversial as it means the president-elect must navigate domestic public opinion aggrieved at Tokyo’s perceived lack of atonement for war crimes.

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