South Korea’s Yoon says better Japan ties helping deter North Korea threat

4/4 South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol gives three cheers during a ceremony of the 105th anniversary of the March 1st Independence Movement Day in Seoul, South Korea, March 1, 2024. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji/Pool 2/4

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Friday improved ties with Japan were helping to combat threats from Pyongyang’s weapons developments and called for help from the international community to bring about unification with North Korea.

Under Yoon’s conservative administration, Seoul has sought better ties with Tokyo which have been fraught with historical baggage for years at a time of China’s growing influence and North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear programs.

During a ceremony to mark an independence holiday, Yoon said next year would be the 60th anniversary of normalised diplomatic relations with Japan and he hoped it could be a chance for the bilateral relationship to reach a “higher level.”

“Now, South Korea and Japan are working together to overcome the painful past and moving toward a ‘new world’,” he said in a speech to commemorate the formation of an independence movement against Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of Korea.

“The security cooperation between the two countries against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats has been strengthened further,” he added.

During his speech, Yoon said that Seoul would need international help for any prospect of unification with North Korea.

“Unification is a challenging task that we cannot accomplish alone. The international community must pool its strength in a responsible manner,” he said.

Yoon’s comments come after the North’s leader Kim Jong Un in January called South Korea a “primary foe” and said unification was no longer possible.

Tensions have also increased on the Korean peninsula following intensifying military drills by the South Korean and U.S. militaries, sometimes involving Japan, in response to weapons testing by the North, which said it was readying for a “nuclear war” with its enemies.

South Korea’s government would continue to provide support for North Korean defectors, Yoon said, accusing Pyongyang of “tyranny and human rights abuses.”


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