The Japanese and South Korean foreign ministers on Saturday underscored the need for improving bilateral relations strained over wartime issues, as South Korea's top court is expected to make a relevant decision soon.
"There has never been a time when progress in Japan-South Korea, Japan-U.S.-South Korea cooperation is more important than now," Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan's top diplomat, said in a speech at an online forum. The three nations have been working closely to address challenges, including threats from North Korea.
His South Korean counterpart, Park Jin, also addressed the forum where academics, former diplomats and others discussed the future of relations between the two Asian neighbors.
"A starting point for improving South Korea-Japan relations is being created," he said.
The remarks by the ministers came as the South Korean Supreme Court is expected to decide soon if it will finalize a court order to liquidate assets seized from one of two Japanese firms sued over alleged forced labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The top court in 2018 ordered the companies, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and Nippon Steel Corp., to pay damages. But they did not comply with the order as the Japanese government has maintained that all claims stemming from its colonial rule were completely settled under a bilateral agreement signed in 1965.
Plaintiffs in the cases then had part of the companies' assets in South Korea seized through the courts with an eye to liquidating them.
The administration of South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol is widely seen as seeking an alternative solution to selling off the assets, a move that Japan has warned would have serious consequences.
Tokyo has asked Seoul to take remedial measures. But no progress was made during the administration of Yoon's predecessor Moon Jae In.