South Korean spy chief Park Jie-won relayed a reconciliatory message from President Moon Jae-in to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, diplomatic sources said Thursday.
Park, the head of the National Intelligence Service, paid a courtesy call to Suga on Wednesday during a visit to Tokyo for a trilateral meeting with his US and Japanese counterparts.
The message is believed to have conveyed Moon’s wishes to normalize the tense relations between the two countries, but no details were disclosed.
During the meeting, Park called for bilateral efforts to mend ties long strained over wartime history and trade, saying, “The relations should not remain the same like this.” Suga reportedly concurred.
Sources said the overall atmosphere was friendly throughout the conversation.
According to Japan’s NHK on Thursday, Park suggested a summit between the two leaders soon and wished the country luck for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
After Suga took office in September, the Moon administration made a flurry of diplomatic overtures, stressing a future-oriented relationship separate from thorny historical issues, but Japan remained largely unresponsive.
After a yearlong standoff, a series of high-level meetings have taken place between the two neighbors recently, with the new US government making a renewed push to bolster the trilateral alliance among the three countries in tackling regional challenges.
Last week, South Korea’s Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong and his Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, also met in London for the first time. It was the first meeting between the two countries’ top diplomats in more than a year.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Park attended a trilateral meeting with US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Japan’s Director of Cabinet Intelligence Hiroaki Takizawa to exchange views on North Korea and other regional issues.
Park also met with several Japanese political leaders, including Toshihiro Nikai, his close confidant and the secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan, possibly to seek support for the rebuilding of ties.
Meanwhile, Haines, the US spy chief, is currently visiting Seoul. On Thursday, she reportedly toured the Demilitarized Zone bordering the two Koreas. Arrangements were said to be under discussion for her to meet Moon and his security adviser, Suh Hoon, later in the day or Friday.
Her visit precedes next week’s summit between Moon and US President Joe Biden. The leaders are set to hold their first face-to-face meeting in Washington on May 21, with North Korea topping the agenda, along with COVID-19 vaccines and the global chip shortage.
By Lee Ji-yoon (email@example.com