“A BIT COMPLICATED”
Yoon has already met Kishida on the sidelines of events, but the pair will hold a full summit meeting on Thursday afternoon, the first since 2011.
They are then expected to hold a rare joint press conference, after which Kishida will host a dinner.
Local media reports said that Yoon had even made a specific menu request: Omurice, a Western-inspired Japanese comfort food featuring an omelette over rice.
For all the outward signs of thawing, the countries still face significant challenges, warned Park Won-gon, professor of North Korean studies at Seoul’s Ewha University.
“It is meaningful that Korea-Japan relations are finally starting to normalise, but it becomes a bit complicated in terms of outcome,” he told AFP.
“It all breaks down to at what level Prime Minister Kishida will be willing to apologise for the history.”
Japan has said that it continues to endorse its historic apologies for wartime acts, but many in South Korea feel that falls short and oppose Yoon’s compensation plan.
Internationally, however, the rapprochement has been welcomed, particularly in Washington, which is keen to see two key Asian allies make up.
And a desire to draw nearer to Washington may be partly motivating Yoon’s diplomatic overtures to Tokyo, said Asaba.
He wants an alliance with Washington “of a more global, comprehensive and strategic nature … on a range of issues from economy to national security and technology”, he said.
“He is aware that South Korea fighting with Japan over bilateral issues will hamper enhancing Seoul’s relations with Washington.”
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