President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Monday to resolve a trade fight and other issues between the two sides through dialogue, Cheong Wa Dae said, as the leaders had their first official one-on-one “conversation” in more than a year.
They sat down together for 11 minutes right before the ASEAN Plus Three summit at the IMPACT Forum in Bangkok.
They agreed that Seoul-Tokyo relations are of importance and reaffirmed the principle of resolving pending bilateral issues through dialogue, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung.
They also expressed hope that the neighboring countries will hammer out ways for substantive progress in official consultations between their foreign ministries, she said.
Moon proposed a review of whether higher-level consultations are necessary, and Abe agreed to explore a resolution by use of “every available means,” Ko added. She said they met in a “very friendly and serious” manner.
She characterized their impromptu meeting as a bilateral “conversation,” neither formal talks nor a “pull-aside.” Moon requested it without any prior consultations or preparations related to formality and agenda items, Ko pointed out.
Ko said the Moon-Abe meeting is expected to serve as a chance for the development of Seoul-Tokyo ties in a “more amicable, forward-looking” way.
“I think it’s time to pool wisdom on various methods in that process,” she said.
Seoul-Tokyo relations have worsened since Tokyo’s toughening of export curbs against Seoul in early July in apparent protest over historical issues.
In the ASEAN Plus Three summit that followed, Moon formally asked ASEAN member states to continue support for the slow-moving Korea peace process, saying North Korea and the United States are bracing for the most critical point in their related negotiations.
Regarding regional peace efforts, Moon said there has been a lot of progress thanks to ASEAN’s support and cooperation.
“But it’s not easy to resolve longtime confrontation and hostility,” he said. “Fortunately, trust persists between the leaders of North Korea and the US and there’s no change in their commitment to continued dialogue.”
Working-level talks and a third summit between the two sides will be the “most critical moment” in the whole process toward the denuclearization of Korea and lasting peace, Moon said.
Once permanent peace is established, South Korea will contribute to peace and stability in both Northeast and Southeast Asia as a “bridge” linking continents and oceans, he added.
“The international community’s support and cooperation is more needed than any other time,” the president stressed.
Speaking at the outset of the annual forum, Moon raised the problem of protectionism and called for a concerted effort to safeguard free trade.
The president also expressed hope for an agreement in ongoing negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
If signed, he added, it will contribute not only to the expansion of free trade and investment in the region but also to peace and co-prosperity in East Asia.
The RCEP talks began in 2012 between the ASEAN bloc and its dialogue partners: South Korea, China, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand. They cover nearly half of the global economy.
In the closing statement, he cited “supranational” challenges facing Asia, such as terrorism, climate change and disaster.
“The ASEAN Plus Three should exert leadership over issues, which are hard to resolve independently by a country,” Moon said.
The ASEAN bloc has mapped out the APT Cooperation Work Plan 2018-2022, and South Korea has also taken part in the initiative.
Moon said South Korea will have a chance to follow up on related consultations with ASEAN in a special bilateral summit to take place in Busan later this month.