Lee, Hatoyama agree to push for resumption of FTA talks

  • Published : May 29, 2010 - 19:36
  • Updated : May 29, 2010 - 19:36

JEJU ISLAND -- President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama agreed during a summit here on Saturday to speed up efforts to resume negotiations for a free trade agreement between the two countries, Lee’s aide said.

"While agreeing to the need for an FTA (with Japan), President Lee mentioned that major South Korean companies such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Hyundai Motor had to pull out from the Japanese market due to its non-tariff barriers," top presidential aide for public relations Lee Dong-kwan said.

President Lee Myung-bak and Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama shake hands at a summit on Jeju Island on Saturday. (Yonhap News)
"Prime Minister Hatoyama said that his government will make efforts to resolve the non-tariff barriers and get rid of closed market practices if there are any."

Lee and Hatoyama also agreed to push for a deal on atomic energy development and an authorized economic operator program, the presidential aide said. Developing an AEO program is a core part of international customs standards to secure and facilitate global trade.

Much of the 90-minute bilateral summit was devoted to discussions on Seoul’s responses to the sunken ship case, which Tokyo has already expressed full support for.

"President Lee explained in detail the results of his summit talks with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Friday and his telephone conversation with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev," the presidential aide said.

"Prime Minister Hatoyama explained Tokyo’s latest unilateral punitive measures against Pyongyang such as restricting remittance by North Koreans in Japan to North Korean bank accounts and passing a law to inspect cargo carried by vessels sailing to and from North Korea." 

The two leaders also agreed to cooperate for a "future-oriented relationship that looks ahead to the next 100 years," as this year marks the 100th anniversary of colonial Japan’s annexation of Korea."

Hatoyama reaffirmed that Tokyo will play a leading role for international cooperation to sanction North Korea by strongly supporting Seoul when it takes the Cheonan case to the U.N. Security Council, according to the aide.

Earlier Saturday, Hatoyama visited a national cemetery in Daejeon, some 160 kilometers south of Seoul, to pay tribute to the fallen South Korean sailors in an apparent show of Tokyo’s will to stand by Seoul in dealing with the Cheonan case.

Japanese Prime Minister Hatoyama and his wife pay tribute to the fallen South Korean navy sailors of the Cheonan warship during their visit to the National Cemetery in Daejeon on Saturday.

On Friday, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said during a summit with President Lee that his country will not “protect anyone” regarding the naval disaster.

Instead of clarifying whether Beijing accepts the results of a probe by South Korea, the U.S., Australia and Sweden, Wen said his country will determine its position after reviewing the case in an “objective and fair” manner.

China, one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the UNSC, has so far remained cautious about blaming the North, its communist ally, which analysts view as a buffer for Beijing from ever-growing U.S. influence in the region.

The Korea-Japan bilateral talks took place prior to an annual trilateral summit of Korea, Japan and China on the resort island aimed at promoting a far-reaching partnership among the Northeast Asian powers on economic, regional and global affairs.

South Korean officials said the president will use the two-day summit to solidify and broaden support for Seoul‘s push to penalize the North. In addition to strong unilateral measures including a halt to inter-Korean trade, Seoul plans to take the case to the UNSC.

“South Korea will focus all diplomatic efforts on holding North Korea responsible in the summit this weekend,” presidential spokesman Park Sun-kyoo said.

By Kim So-hyun (