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Unification minister calls for Japan's support in improving inter-Korean relations

All News 18:04 September 01, 2020

By Yi Wonju

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young called Tuesday for Japan's support in improving inter-Korean relations, saying it will be "very beneficial for Japan as well."

Lee made the remark during his first meeting with Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita after his inauguration in July, stressing the need for the two countries to maintain cooperation in the wake of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent decision to step down.

"Prime Minister Abe has announced his decision to step down due to health concerns. Our government is sorry to hear about this and wishes him a speedy recovery," Lee said at the start of the meeting.

"Our government will continue to cooperate with the new Japanese administration and we expect to maintain close cooperation especially in achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula and peace in the Northeast Asia region," he said.

Lee also called on Japan to support South Korea's efforts to improve inter-Korean relations "with a broad perspective and open mind."

"I am aware that within Japan, or in some parts of it, there are those who voice concerns over the rapid move in improving inter-Korean relations ... I believe bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula by improving inter-Korean relations will lead to peace and stability in Northeast Asia and will be very beneficial for Japan as well," he said.

Tomita agreed on the need to resume denuclearization talks but emphasized that several issues remain for Tokyo and Pyongyang to resolve first, including the abduction of Japanese citizens by the North in the 1970s and 1980s to train its spies on Japanese language and culture.

The abduction issue has been one of the key hurdles for diplomatic normalization between North Korea and Japan for decades.

"North Kora's kidnapping (of the Japanese) was an important task under the Abe administration ... it will remain an important task under the new administration as well," he said.

Inter-Korean relations have been stalled since the no-deal nuclear summit between the North and the U.S. early last year. The ties worsened recently when North Korea blew up a joint liaison office in its border town of Kaesong in anger over anti-Pyongyang leaflets flown from the South.

South Korean Unification Minister Lee In-young (R) poses with Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita at his office in Seoul on Sept. 1, 2020. (Yonhap)


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