South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Japan on Thursday as Tokyo and Seoul seek to thaw relations, an initiative backed by the US as it seeks to rally its allies in the region against China.
According to Nikkei Asia, the two leaders agreed to bolster cooperation against North Korea and to resume a working-level bilateral security dialogue that has been on a five-year hiatus.
Yoon announced the “normalization” of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), a pact that allows the two countries to share military intelligence.
In 2019, Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in, said Seoul would not be renewing the GSOMIA in response to new export controls Japan imposed on South Korea. The two countries also announced a trade agreement on Thursday that will lift Japanese export controls.
The GSOMIA allows the two countries to share information on North Korean missile tests. “I believe the two countries should be able to share information on North Korea’s nuclear missile launches and trajectories, and respond to them,” Yoon said at a press conference following his meeting with Kishida.
The meeting between Yoon and Kishida marked the first visit between Japanese and South Korean leaders since 2012. “From now on, I would like to open a new chapter in Japan-South Korea relations through frequent visits by both sides that are not tied down by formality,” Kishida said.
Ties between South Korea and Japan have been strained over the Japanese imperial rule of Korea from 1910 to 1945. The two countries have been working on an agreement to settle a dispute over Korean slave labor during the occupation, although South Korea’s opposition and many others in the country are not happy with a proposal Yoon accepted from Japan.
Rahm Emanuel, the US ambassador to Japan, welcomed the warming of ties and said North Korea and China won’t be happy about the progress. “Our working together not only on the political front, but on the strategic front, on the deterrence front, is what North Korea is scared about. It’s also what China doesn’t want to see happen,” he told CNN.
US military leaders expect any future war with China also to involve action from North Korea and want to coordinate more with the Japanese and South Korean militaries. Kishida recently announced Japan is doubling its military budget over the next five years as part of a military buildup specifically aimed at China.