Despite fears that the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may affect Japan’s policy objectives, Seoul officials believe a high-level visit to Tokyo next week will resume negotiations aimed at resolving historical problems.

Relations between the two North Asian US allies have been strained by issues going back to Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910 to 1945. In the face of North Korea’s nuclear danger and China’s growing power, Washington has pressed Tokyo and Seoul to heal wounds.

Officials in South Korean President Yoon Suk-administration, yeol’s who took office in May vowing to improve relations with Japan, told Reuters they are encouraged by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s election victory, which could give him more leeway to pursue his policy agenda for the next three years.

Foreign Minister Park Jin will visit Japan from July 18 to 20, according to the ministry, in a trip aimed at “turning on the tap” for real discussions on problems linked to forced labor, which stopped under Yoon’s predecessor.

According to the South Korean ministry, Park will meet with his Japanese colleague Yoshimasa Hayashi to address bilateral ties as well as challenges on the Korean Peninsula. Park will pay his respects to Abe as well.

Another South Korean source said Yoon will lead a high-level delegation to Japan’s public mourning ceremony for Abe, who was shot and died on the campaign trail last week.

Yoon will also likely use his Aug. 15 Liberation Day speech commemorating Korea’s independence from Japan to offer a reconciliatory message to Tokyo, according to the source.

“What we’re trying to do is to open the door for real talks,” said the senior official.

The killing of Abe, a defining presence in Japanese politics and a polarizing figure in Korea, has cast additional concerns on the future of ties with South Korea, where harsh wartime memories linger.

According to some observers, Korea may be placed on the back burner as Kishida works to realize Abe’s unfulfilled goals, like as constitutional revision that would enable Japanese forces to combat abroad.

However, some Korean officials believe Japan is more inclined to speak today, with pressure from US Vice President Joe Biden’s administration also playing a role.

“We see great potential in stronger trilateral relationships,” US State Department Counsellor Derek Chollet told Reuters this week.

Source: Reuters

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