Moon to send ‘handwritten letter’ to Abe via PM

19-Oct-2019 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Prime minister (PM) Lee Nak-yon will deliver a “handwritten message” from President Moon Jae-in to prime minister Shinzo Abe when they meet next week on the sidelines of Lee’s attendance at the coronation of Japanese Emperor Naruhito.

“Prime minister Lee will meet Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe on October 24 in Tokyo. Further specifics of the meeting will be announced once the relevant details are determined,” the prime minister’s Office said Friday.

Cheong Wa Dae and ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) sources told The Korea Times that President Moon’s messages will include his hopes for an improvement in bilateral relations in various areas.

“We are pretty open about the delivery format of the President’s message to Abe via the prime minister. The key point is Lee will deliver Moon’s thoughts,” an official at the office told reporters. The prime minister will use the presidential plane for his Japan trip, and more than 50 journalists from 30 different media outlets will accompany him.

A presidential aide confirmed preparatory work was underway to deliver the message. “South Korea’s position hasn’t changed since the very beginning of the bilateral dispute. Seoul wants to address key outstanding issues via open dialogue and communication,” the aide said.

Lee’s itinerary includes holding meetings with Japanese lawmakers, students and businesspeople, and Korean residents of Japan, according to his office. The meeting is the highest-level one between government officials from the two countries since October last year.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have deteriorated since the Korean Supreme Court’s rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate surviving victims who were forced to work for them under colonial rule. Japan then restricted exports of three key resource goods to South Korean companies and removed the country Korea from it whitelist of preferred trading partners. Seoul claims this was political retaliation against the ruling, and in turn removed Tokyo from its whitelist and decided not to extend the general Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) with Japan, a means of trilateral military cooperation between Seoul, Tokyo and Washington.

The two countries were exploring ways to resolve tensions through diplomatic channels but facing a deadlock due to stark differences on historical issues. The government suggested that South Korean and Japanese companies voluntarily create a fund to compensate the victims, but this was immediately rejected by Japan.

If Abe sends “goodwill gestures” in addressing key bilateral issues, a summit between South Korea and Japan could happen on the sidelines of next month’s Apec gathering to be held in Chile, according to presidential aides. “We will be working on it but everything depends on the level of progress in talks aimed at resolving the bilateral confrontation.”

“If the two reach an agreement over the handling of the court rulings Korea being removed from the whitelist, the military pact will then be extended,” said Shin Beom-chul, a senior analyst at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies.

Lee will also have “behind-the-scenes meetings” with businesspeople and political figures before his departure to Tokyo in a move to have “better leverage.”

Lee met with Shin Dong-bin, chair of Lotte Group to explore ways to improve the bilateral relations. Shin, as a chair running businesses both in South Korea and Japan, has extensive networks in Japan including a relationship with Abe. Shin and Lee also met in Louisiana, the US in May, and reportedly discussed Seoul-Tokyo relations back then.


Category: Korea

Print This Post