Despite worries that the passing of former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe could thwart efforts to improve relations, South Korea believes a high-level visit to Tokyo next week would spark negotiations aiming at a breakthrough in historical disagreements, Seoul officials said.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s recent election victory may allow him more room to promote his policy programme for another three years, according to officials in the administration of South Korea’s new President Yoon Suk-yeol, who took office in May promising to strengthen ties with Japan.
According to some observers, Korea may be put on the back burner as Kishida works to fulfil Abe’s unfulfilled goals, including constitutional revision that would enable Japanese forces to engage in combat abroad.
According to The Diplomat, Different interpretations of the accord that repaired relations between South Korea and Japan in 1965 are at the heart of the current standoff. While South Korea’s Supreme Court has interpreted the 1965 agreement to have only resolved state-to-state claims and not individual claims, Japan has maintained that all claims relating to forced labour were resolved with the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claims and on Economic Co-operation between Japan and the Republic of Korea (Claims Agreement).
However, some Korean officials believe that Japan is now more open to communication, with pressure from the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden possibly playing a part as well.