The Japanese government is seriously considering high-level dialogue with incoming South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, with the conservative president-elect seen as willing to improve soured bilateral ties, a government source said Saturday.
High-level dialogue has not been held between the two countries for a while as the current administration of liberal President Moon Jae In has clashed with Japan over issues stemming from Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida's government hopes to strengthen cooperation with South Korea under the incoming president and forge closer coordination with the United States and South Korea over North Korea's nuclear and missile issues, the source said.
The immediate focus is on who should be sent to Yoon's inaugural ceremony on May 10. Seoul is said to be expecting a senior official of the Kishida government to attend the event.
Tokyo is expected to start arranging its representative soon while closely watching Yoon's posture toward Japan.
Since being elected in a close presidential contest in March, Yoon has called for a future-oriented approach to bilateral ties and said as much during a meeting with Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Koichi Aiboshi on March 28.
"South Korea and Japan are partners that share many tasks to tackle, such as security and economic prosperity and, therefore, to overcome the current thorny relationships, it is needed to form a future-oriented partnership based on correct perspective toward history," Yoon told the ambassador, according to his spokeswoman.
Japanese officials seem willing to engage with the incoming Yoon administration.
"Unlike the Moon administration, we can welcome the next administration," a senior Foreign Ministry official said. "We want to make contact at the right timing."
A high-level government official said, "What is clear is that both sides are willing to improve ties."
At a press conference on Friday, Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi echoed a similar sentiment, saying, "We will communicate with the new administration at an appropriate timing and level."
Arrangements are under way for U.S. President Joe Biden to visit South Korea before visiting Japan in late May, according to a diplomatic source.
If Biden comes to Japan after meeting with Yoon, the U.S. president may raise Japan-South Korea issues in his talks with Kishida. If so, Kishida may convey to Biden Tokyo's intention to work to improve ties with Seoul.
Regarding who may be dispatched to Seoul for Yoon's presidential inauguration, Hayashi told reporters Friday that no one has been selected definitively.
In 2008, then Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda attended President Lee Myung Bak's inaugural ceremony, while in 2013, former Prime Minister Taro Aso, who was then doubling as deputy prime minister and finance minister, took part in President Park Geun Hye's ceremony.
Relations between Japan and South Korea remain soured over historical disputes, including compensation for women coerced into working in military brothels and former wartime laborers.