Japan and South Korea announced relaxed trade controls and a return of frequent reciprocal visits on Thursday, as President Yoon Suk Yeol visits Tokyo on a trip intended to rebuild ties between the neighbours.
For years, the two countries have been locked in a bitter spat over wartime forced labour. But since his election last year, Yoon has made it clear that repairing relations with Japan is a top priority.
He has already met Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines of diplomatic events, and on Thursday the pair kicked off the first full-scale summit between the countries in 12 years.
“At today’s summit, I believe that there will be fruitful discussions that can transform Korea-Japan relations, which have been at a standstill, into a relationship of cooperation and mutually beneficial development,” Yoon said.
Kishida said the two sides had “agreed on the resumption of shuttle diplomacy by leaders of Japan and South Korea, no matter what the format” of the trips.
Japanese media said this could include Kishida inviting Yoon to the G7 summit in Hiroshima in May, and then visiting Seoul.
In a further sign of thawing relations, Tokyo’s trade ministry said Thursday it would restore the status quo after nearly four years of restricting exports to South Korea of key industrial materials needed for semiconductors.