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Japan, South Korea bury trade hatchet amid security threats

Japan and South Korea agreed to drop an almost four-year-old trade dispute on high-tech materials on Thursday. The agreement is seen as a sign that both countries aim to rebuild a relationship strained by history and work together against deepening security threats.

The announcement came during Yoon Suk Yeol’s visit to Japan on Thursday, the first for a South Korean president in 12 years, as the two neighbors look for common ground in the face of frequent North Korean missile launches.

LIVE: Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida welcomes South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol

— Reuters (@Reuters) March 16, 2023

Bygones be bygones

Japan will remove curbs on its exports to South Korea of critical materials for smartphone displays and chips while Seoul will drop a World Trade Organization complaint against Tokyo, officials from both sides said.

Tokyo imposed the curbs in 2019 as tensions over a decades-old row with Seoul deepened. Thursday’s announcement is likely to be seen as a sign of Yoon and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s desire to present a united front against growing regional tension and cooperate on supply chains.

Security threats

The urgency of regional security and the threat posed by North Korea were underscored in the hours before Yoon’s arrival when the North fired a long-range ballistic missile that landed in the sea between the Korean peninsula and Japan.

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Yoon has said that he expects to “invigorate” security cooperation and the two leaders are preparing to confirm the restart of a bilateral security dialogue which has been suspended since 2018, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Tokyo and Seoul are also expected to revive “shuttle diplomacy” of regular visits between the leaders, according to a Yomiuri daily report citing Japanese government sources.

The attempt for closer ties brought a rebuke from China, whose foreign ministry said it opposed the attempt by certain countries to form exclusive circles.

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