Kishida, Yoon agree to keep working to expand bilateral ties

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida agreed Sunday with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol that their countries will continue to work together to deepen bilateral relations, the government said.

During their meeting on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, Kishida also told Yoon that Tokyo supports Seoul’s efforts to play a role as the chair of trilateral talks, including China, according to the Japanese government.

The last time Kishida and Yoon met was in August on the fringes of a three-way summit with U.S. President Joe Biden near Washington. The Japanese and South Korean leaders have held six bilateral talks in as many months, the government said.

The latest summit between Kishida and Yoon took place amid expectations that senior diplomats from Japan, South Korea and China plan to hold talks in Seoul, possibly on Sept. 25.

South Korea, which has served as chair of the trilateral framework since 2020, has been seeking to host a three-way summit by the end of this year in an apparent bid to maintain high-level dialogue among the three Asian nations.

But it remains uncertain whether such a summit can be held, as ties between Tokyo and Beijing have been deteriorating over Japan’s release of treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea that began on Aug. 24.

China has lambasted Japan for discharging “nuclear-contaminated water” into the Pacific Ocean from the plant, which suffered meltdowns in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, imposing a blanket ban on Japanese seafood imports.

Japan-South Korea relations, meanwhile, have been improving after Seoul proposed in March a solution to a long-standing wartime labor compensation dispute. In May, Yoon visited Japan to participate as a guest in the Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima.

By Nadeem Faisal Baiga