politics

Less bluster, but no compromise seen as S Korean, Japan ministers meet in China

18 Comments
By Hyonhee Shin and Tim Kelly

South Korea and Japan have toned down the rhetoric but show little sign of compromise in a bitter political and economic dispute as their foreign ministers prepare to meet in China this week.

Relations between the two U.S. allies are at their worst in years, with a trade row rooted in a decades-old dispute over compensation for Koreans forced to work during Japan's wartime occupation of South Korea.

Foreign ministers Kang Kyung-wha of South Korea, Taro Kono of Japan and Wang Yi of China will have trilateral meetings in Beijing from Tuesday evening to Thursday.

"We will have to actively express our position, but I am leaving with a heavy heart because the situation is very difficult," Kang said before departing for China where a one-on-one meeting with Kono is set for Wednesday.

Their August meeting in Bangkok, where cameras captured the unsmiling pair making perfunctory handshakes, achieved little. A day later, Japan cut South Korea from a white list of favoured trade partners, drawing retaliatory measures from Seoul.

"We expect to exchange views on various issues between Japan and the ROK, such as the issue of former civilian workers from the Korean Peninsula," Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, using the initials of South Korea's official name, the Republic of Korea.

The Beijing talks would reaffirm Japan's "close bilateral cooperation" with South Korea, as well as trilateral ties with the United States, the ministry said.

Since the Bangkok meeting, Seoul has urged a "cooling off period" and Japan approved shipments of a high-tech material to South Korea for the second time since imposing export curbs in July.

Nevertheless, the dispute is far from over.

South Korea warned this month it may consider revoking a military intelligence sharing pact with Japan, though an official at the presidential Blue House said on Tuesday no decision had been taken.

Seoul has also raised concerns about Japan's handling of contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear plant, a South Korea official said, though it may not bring it up in Beijing.

South Korea and other countries have restrictions on imports of produce from areas around the Fukushima site where three reactors melted down after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

While both sides have moderated their public statements, observers do not expect any major breakthroughs this week.

"I don't think Japan is going to show a nice face to Seoul this time," said one former Japanese diplomat familiar with the government's position.

Japan believes South Korea's economy is hurting more in the trade row, and "doesn't mind waiting for further concessions from Seoul," said the ex-diplomat.

Citing national security, Japan in July restricted exports of some key materials used in chips and displays made by South Korea firms, threatening to disrupt the global supply chain.

Later this month a decision to remove South Korea from Japan's list of trading partners with fast-track access to a number of materials is scheduled to go into effect.

South Korea has responded by removing Japan from its own trade white list, and South Korean consumers are boycotting Japanese products and avoiding travel to Japan.

There also has been no progress in resolving the issue that triggered the latest chill in relations - a series of South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate South Koreans forced to work for Japanese occupiers.

"I don't think we can expect a big change in the situation as a result of tomorrow's meeting because the forced labour issue is at the root of the deterioration in ties and there hasn't been any new development regarding that," said Kyungjoo Kim, a professor at Tokai University in Tokyo.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

18 Comments
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Relations between the two U.S. allies are at their worst in years, with a trade row rooted in a decades-old dispute over compensation for Koreans forced to work during Japan's wartime occupation of South Korea.

They forgot to mention the spectacularly exceedingly maddeningly lingeringly bitterness over Japan's perceived failure to atone for past colonialism.

Or something.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Japan doesn't need help from SK.

Jp govt couldn't stand SK's attitude any more.

This isn't news at all.

BTW, am I the only one who thinks Jp govt is trying to distract Jp people from thinking about stupid tax system starting in October, making them point their anger to sthg else like this?

If not, why now?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I think S.K. has a lot more to lose than Japan does if relations don't improve.

Japan shouldn't sweat it and not bother with more meetings unless S.K. changes its tone and rhetoric.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

If S. Korea is willing to have bad relations with Japan because of the past because of the colonial times in 1910 it shows they don't care about the relationship with Japan in the present or future. It's a convenient punching bag and a way to keep Japan in check with S. Korea holding the upper hand by using historical cards.

This is not just about the 1965 force labor.

This is about comfort woman deal too, they already went back on the 2015 Final and Irreversible deal. They want a new one now in 2019.

It's about the Takeshima Island which S. Korea took illegally from Japan.

Even the name of Japan Sea is under attack by S. Korea.

This is a battle which S. Korea started a long time ago. Japan is slowly waking up and realizing what the heck is going on.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

South Korea needs to do a lot more than just toning down the rhetoric if it has any desire to regain Japan's trust. Let's start with "irreversible" Agreements that SK has reversed. Then they can conduct themselves honorably and agree to Aribitration as per the 1965 Treaty. Which in turn will determine the validity of the SK Court's ruling against Japanese corporations.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

The relationship S. Korea enjoys most is one where Japan backs down every single time!

Look it up for yourselfs... Japan in the past has back down every single time! That's S. Koreas expectation! Japan has to back down every time to Korean demands. Even radar lock on... Japanese apologies!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

South Korea and Japan have toned down the rhetoric but show little sign of compromise in a bitter political and economic dispute 

These media. Always treating SK and Japan in line. Japan has never toned up the rhetoric but rather cool having done what has to be done. It is SK which has been insane and media should accurately report it.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Politics are bothering economies of both countries.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

showchinmonoToday  09:53 am JST

South Korea and Japan have toned down the rhetoric but show little sign of compromise in a bitter political and economic dispute 

These media. Always treating SK and Japan in line. Japan has never toned up the rhetoric but rather cool having done what has to be done. It is SK which has been insane and media should accurately report it.

Exactly. There's a clear difference in that Japan has endured such hostile treatment from South Korea (in expectation it can do so because of what happened during WW2) while Japan just keeps appeasing SK government in some such way.

But now enough is enough. This hardline stance from Japan is so long overdue, all it does is prove just how patient they've been with South Korea's woefully inept leadership, them seemingly using every opportunity that arises to shoot themselves in the foot. It's embarrassing them.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

AlexBecuToday 09:28 am JST

If S. Korea is willing to have bad relations with Japan because of the past because of the colonial times in 1910 it shows they don't care about the relationship with Japan in the present or future.

Another good point, those that are unwilling to move on show no respect for the present situation, in which South Korea has profited and gained from MASSIVE technological transfer from Japan over the last 20 years. It has enabled SK companies to compete at the top of consumer electronics (except in Japan of course).... but South Korea acts like that is all their own doing and Japan had nothing to do with it. It's so obvious Japan has the upper hand where they can make new headlines 'throttling' South Korea's electronics output if they are pushed to do so, to prove a point about who needs who more.

The bottom line is, South Korea should be very careful in the coming weeks/months as it will almost certainly end with South Korea willingly separating itself from its "#1 behind-the-scenes supporter" Japan, not Japan separating itself from South Korea. It will 100% be South Korea's decision. And a bad one.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Exactly assembling parts together isn't technology nor innovation sk will soon learn its only a matter of time

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I hope that China can bring SK and Japan together. There are common goals ahead, unite, my beloved smart people.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Japan believes South Korea's economy is hurting more in the trade row, and "doesn't mind waiting for further concessions from Seoul," said the ex-diplomat.

This is where Japanese officials are dead wrong.

In July, Korea's export to Japan went down by $1 billion.

At the same time, Japan's export to Korea went down by $5 billion.

In other word, Abe san's trade war hit Japan 5 times harder than Korea did.

August numbers are expected to be far worse, as Korea's Japan Boycott went into full force in August and not in July, and impacts from Korea's travel boycott isn't even factored in, which is expected to cost Japan $10 billion in lost tourism revenue in 2019.

This is why Abe san needs to surrender to Korea ASAP because Japan's trade deficit can be made perpetual if this continues.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I hope that China can bring SK and Japan together. There are common goals ahead, unite, my beloved smart people.

One thing I have alway found consistant in this world, - it pays to get on with ones neigbour.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is where Japanese officials are dead wrong.

In July, Korea's export to Japan went down by $1 billion.

At the same time, Japan's export to Korea went down by $5 billion.

In other word, Abe san's trade war hit Japan 5 times harder than Korea did.

Umm not really . One should consider the size of GDP and export dependency ratio of its economy.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Exactly assembling parts together isn't technology nor innovation sk will soon learn its only a matter of time

@AV - That is naive and extremely uninformed. So why can't Japan assemble some parts and make computer chips anymore? Why can't every country do this?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@AviBajaj

Exactly assembling parts together isn't technology nor innovation sk will soon learn its only a matter of time

SK seems to have learnt that a long time ago as they have been ranked the most innovative country for 6 consecutive years already.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-01-22/germany-nearly-catches-korea-as-innovation-champ-u-s-rebounds

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There are common goals ahead

common goals ahead???

Where are they? SK is always moving the goals.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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