The Korea Herald


Yoon, Kishida to discuss security, tech partnership

Seoul plans top-level security for Japanese PM; Yoon’s office says declaration unlikely

By Cho Chung-un, Kim Arin

Published : May 4, 2023 - 17:52

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South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands ahead of summit talks in Tokyo on March 16. (Yonhap) South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida shake hands ahead of summit talks in Tokyo on March 16. (Yonhap)

The leaders of South Korea and Japan will discuss regional security, technology and science partnerships, as well as cultural and youth exchanges at a summit planned in Seoul on Sunday, marking the two nations’ “shuttle diplomacy” becoming fully operational, the presidential office said Thursday.

According to presidential spokesperson Lee Do-woon, who quoted Japanese National Security Adviser Takeo Akiba, the decision for Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's visit was made as a gesture of gratitude for President Yoon Suk Yeol’s courage to mend ties between the countries. Akiba was in Seoul on Wednesday to make arrangements for the prime minister's visit with his Korean counterpart, Cho Tae-yong.

The summit will be followed by a joint press conference and a dinner hosted by President Yoon, he added.

A joint declaration, however, is unlikely, considering that the summit is part of a working visit by a foreign leader, not a state visit, an official said, requesting anonymity.

On reports that the topic of Fukushima’s contaminated water could be added to the summit agenda, the official said discussions on the matter were still underway, and that he does not believe it needs to be excluded.

The Japanese leader will receive top-level security during his visit to Seoul, the office said, citing recent incidents that raised the need for the highest level of protection.

An explosive was thrown at Kishida during a campaign event and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was killed while making a speech on the streets.

The Japanese prime minister would not normally be granted the highest level of protection in South Korea, but the provision was recently made ahead of his visit to Seoul, the office added.

On the economic front, Kishida returning Yoon’s official visit in March is expected to prompt further economic exchanges between the two countries.

On the second and last day of his stay in Seoul, Kishida will reportedly meet with leaders of South Korea’s key business organizations such as the Federation of Korean Industries, Korea Enterprises Federation and the Korea International Trade Association.

As Yoon is known for his “dining diplomacy,” tending to build a rapport with political leaders at home and abroad through dining together, reports have suggested that the dinner hosted by the president will be held at his residence in an “intimate setting.”

According to Rep. Jang Dong-hyeok, who was at the presidential dinner with other ruling People Power Party leaders on Tuesday, Yoon mentioned a Korean-style charcoal barbecue as part of the menu for the state dinner with Kishida.

“The president said that as Japanese grilled foods are usually seasoned with sauce, charcoal-grilled foods could be fresh and different,” Jang told The Korea Herald, adding that the idea was brought up as Yoon and top ruling party lawmakers were having charcoal-grilled beef themselves.

An official at the presidential office said on Thursday that serving local Korean cuisine to foreign leaders during their visits to Korea is a customary practice when asked about the reports. But he declined to confirm reports, saying that working-level discussions were still underway.

With the public divided over the recent thaw in bilateral relations and the opposition parties’ increased attacks on the Yoon government, the outcome of Kishida’s visit is considered crucial for the South Korean leader in continuing his foreign policy drive.

Following the Tokyo summit, South Korea and Japan have put each other back on their “white lists” of trusted trading partners. Exchanges in the private sector, put on hold for the past few years, are beginning to resume. Last month, the Korea-Japan Economic Association held an in-person conference for the first time in four years in Seoul, with another one being convened later this month, also in the South Korean capital.

Yoon’s political opponents in the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea have pushed for asking Kishida for a formal apology to the South Korean victims of forced labor and other wartime atrocities.

At a three-day trilateral legislative exchange between South Korea, Japan and the US, which wrapped up Wednesday in Washington, lawmakers from the three countries shared views on beefing up security and intelligence cooperation, according to a release issued by the South Korean delegation Thursday.