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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Yoon praises return of ‘virtuous cycle’ with Japan and U.S.

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President Yoon Suk Yeol, center, in meeting with People Power Party lawmakers at the lawn of the newly opening Yongsan Children's Garden on Tuesday. [PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE]

President Yoon Suk Yeol, center, in meeting with People Power Party lawmakers at the lawn of the newly opening Yongsan Children’s Garden on Tuesday. [PRESIDENTIAL OFFICE]

President Yoon Suk Yeol emphasized the importance of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s visit to Seoul later this week as a restoration of a “virtuous cycle” in Korea’s diplomatic relationships with Japan and the U.S.

“The opening of the relationship between Korea and Japan has also opened up the relationship between Korea and the U.S., and this, in turn, has affected the relationship with Japan, turning the relationship between Korea, U.S. and Japan into a virtuous cycle,” People Power Party (PPP) floor spokesperson Jang Dong-hyeok quoted Yoon as saying.

Yoon met with the leadership of the PPP, including party chair Kim Gi-hyeon and floor leader Yun Jae-ok, in Yongsan, central Seoul late Tuesday, where they had dinner at the newly opened Yongsan Children’s Garden.

The meeting was the first between the president and the PPP since his return from a weeklong state visit to the U.S., which not only included a summit with U.S. President Joe Biden but also a speech on Capitol Hill, a briefing at the U.S. National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, a first for any foreign head of state, and a lecture at Harvard University, also a first for a Korean president.

On Tuesday, the presidential office confirmed that the Japanese prime minister will be visiting Seoul for a two-day trip starting Sunday.

It will be the first visit by a Japanese prime minister for a bilateral meeting in 12 years.

Although late Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Korea in 2018, it was to attend the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The visit comes just 50 days after Yoon visited Tokyo in late March.

During Yoon’s visit, he and his Japanese counterpart agreed to normalize the bilateral relationship, including the restoration of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (Gsomia), which had been suspended since 2019, as well as reinstating each other on their respective “whitelists” of preferential trading partners.

Earlier speculation predicted the second summit would take place after the G7 meeting in Hiroshima, to which Yoon has been invited as an observer.

However, the sudden moving forward of the date of Kishida’s visit to Seoul is believed to be at least partly the result of Yoon’s visit to Washington last week, during which Korea appears to have received stronger backing from the U.S.

Yoon was not only able to establish a new “Nuclear Consultative Group” with the U.S. for strengthening extended deterrence against North Korea’s nuclear threats, but he also won U.S. public support through a video of him singing Don McLean’s hit classic “American Pie” during his state dinner with U.S. President Joe Biden, as well as the applause he received from his speech at Capitol Hill where he emphasized the importance of the 70-year alliance.

Kisihida’s visit later this week is expected to restore so-called “shuttle diplomacy” between the two neighbors, halted since 2012 when the relationship started to crack after then-President Lee Myung-bak’s surprise visit to Dokdo, a group of islets in the East Sea that Japan claims as its own.

The Democratic Party (DP) on Wednesday said it will closely monitor the summit between the two countries, adding that the public will no longer tolerate Yoon giving Japan everything it wants with nothing in return.

The DP accused Yoon of engaging in “humiliating diplomacy” during his previous trip to Japan

“I hope the upcoming summit will not be a repetition of the last summit, which was humiliating,” DP leader Lee Jae-myung said during the party’s leadership meeting. He said it was the last warning from the people.

The DP chief stressed that the Yoon government should get an apology from the Japanese prime minister for atrocities committed during the Japanese occupation.

“We don’t have much time to ask for a fair apology for war crimes committed by Japan,” Lee said, referring to a former “comfort woman” who passed away Tuesday.

“Comfort women” refer to sex slaves forced to work in brothels run by the Japanese military during World War Two.

“Prime Minister Kishida should make a sincere apology to both the Korean people and the victims, while the heads of both countries should review a solution to the forced labor compensation issue from the beginning.”

During the meeting with PPP leaders, Yoon stressed the importance of building up Korea’s competitiveness, especially through bold investment in advanced technology industries to become a global economic powerhouse.

“Without freedom and creativity, one can’t become No.1,” Yoon said.

He especially stressed the need to cooperate with leading U.S. institutions in science and technology, including semiconductor and aerospace technologies. The president also stressed that such cooperation will lead to more opportunities for young Koreans and asked for support from lawmakers.

“Only when we become a massive economic country that prospers and has advanced technologies will we not be ignored by neighboring major powers such as the U.S., China and Japan,” Yoon reportedly said.

“Nuclear or not, it is most important that we live well economically,” Yoon stressed.

However, the president criticized his predecessor, former President Moon Jae-in, accusing his government of failing not only in diplomacy but also in national defense and the economy.

He reportedly pointed out how Moon ate only with his staff without the company of Chinese officials during his visit to China in 2017, while discussing how Moon’s phase-out of nuclear power has burdened the public with higher utility bills.

Of the 10 meals that Moon had in China, only two were with Chinese leaders, including a dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

BY KIM DA-YOUNG, LEE HO-JEONG [lee.hojeong@joongang.co.kr]