South Korea ready to mend ties with Japan, says President Moon Jae-In

South Korean President Moon Jae-in | Twitter File photo

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Seoul/Tokyo: South Korean President Moon Jae-In said his administration remains ready to mend ties with Japan after more than a year of tensions, and as both sides hold ceremonies to remember Japan’s World War II surrender in 1945 that ended its brutal colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

Moon reiterated a call for Japan to respect its Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 for two Japanese firms to compensate Koreans conscripted to work during the colonial occupation.

While Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a speech in Tokyo, didn’t offer any direct apologies for the damage caused in the region from the country’s past militarism, Emperor Naruhito said at the same ceremony that bearing in mind feelings of deep remorse, he hopes “the ravages of war will never be repeated.”

Abe on Saturday also spoke of Japan’s new military doctrine of “proactive pacifism.” He has long pressed a revision of Japan’s pacifist constitution and has been accused by critics of trying to whitewash the country’s militarist past.

Abe usually marks the anniversary by sending a ceremonial gift via an aide to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 wartime leaders convicted as Class A war criminals alongside other war dead. He did the same this year, Kyodo News reported. A personal visit to a shrine viewed by some as a symbol of Japan’s past militarism would be seen by Seoul as crossing a diplomatic red line. Abe hasn’t made a pilgrimage since 2013.

Still, four members of his Cabinet were at the shrine on Saturday. Japanese Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi — the 38-year-old son of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and a rising political star — paid his respects, becoming the first sitting cabinet minister to do so on the anniversary in four years. Education Minister Koichi Hagiuda and Seiichi Eto, minister in charge of Okinawa and Northern territories affairs, and Internal Affairs Minister Sanae Takaichi also visited.

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