South Korea and Japan must lead Asia in driving the world’s economic recovery and should work together to rid North Korea of nuclear weapons, Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said yesterday.
Aso’s two-day trip to Seoul is part of a new effort by both North Asian countries to improve their ties. While they are key economic partners, diplomatic relations between the two countries have often strained over Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak praised Japan for agreeing last month to a currency swap deal of up to US$30 billion that helped reduce fears that South Korea could face a foreign exchange crisis.
Both agreed to work closely with US president-elect Barack Obama on the North Korean nuclear issue, Aso said.
Lee said they must continue to cooperate to realize a nuclear-free North Korea.
The meeting followed Lee’s election promises to improve ties with Japan.
Since taking office 11 months ago, Lee has said he would not demand a new apology from Japan for its colonial rule and has pushed for improved ties with Tokyo.
But Lee’s diplomatic overtures toward Japan took a hit in July when Tokyo announced it would recommend that a government teaching manual include Japan’s claim to uninhabited islets claimed by both countries.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yu Myung-hwan said yesterday that Seoul maintained its position that the islets belong to South Korea, but that he believed the two countries would be able to respect one another’s position as long as they focus on “future-oriented” relations.
Trade between the two countries reached US$82.6 billion in 2007.