South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Monday emphasized the importance of cultivating future-oriented ties with Japan to help overcome unresolved historical issues between the Asian neighbors as he made his first Liberation Day speech since taking office.

Yoon has expressed a willingness to improve relations that have been strained for years following a ruling by South Korea's top court that ordered Japanese firms to compensate people for unpaid labor during the colonial era.

"When Korea-Japan relations move toward a common future," it will "also help us solve the historical problems that exist between our two countries," Yoon said at a ceremony to commemorate the end of Japanese colonial rule 77 years ago.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol delivers a speech at a Liberation Day ceremony in Seoul on Aug. 15, 2022. (Kyodo)

Japan, however, claims all historical issues stemming from its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula were "completely and finally" settled under a bilateral treaty signed in 1965 when the two nations normalized ties.

Yoon also reiterated that the governments and citizens of the two countries should cooperate extensively in areas ranging from economic and security arrangements to social and cultural exchanges to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the region and wider world.

Regarding the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Yoon pledged to offer economic support to North Korea if the nuclear-armed country embarks on a substantive process of denuclearization.

"We will implement a large-scale food program, provide assistance for power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure, and carry out projects to modernize ports and airports for international trade," Yoon said.

Such support will significantly improve North Korea's economy and people's livelihoods, he added.

Late last month, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned against any pre-emptive strike from the South Korean armed forces, while mentioning Yoon by name for the first time since he became president in May.

In marked contrast to his predecessor Moon Jae In, Yoon is known for taking a hardline stance on North Korea.

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