|Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon speaks during a seminar held by the Korea News Editors' Association at the Press Center, Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap|
By Park Ji-won
Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon urged Japan Wednesday to accept the South's position over historical issues in order to build future-oriented relations between the two countries.
Citing President Moon Jae-in's proposal urging Tokyo to separate historical issues from others and wisely deal with the situation so that Korea-Japan relations can be normalized. Lee said, "Japan is not accepting the idea. From that perspective, I gently suggest Japan accept it and join hands together to come up with wise ways to tackle things including the North Korea nuclear issue."
"In the past, the government tried to improve Korea-Japan relations in diplomatic and political ways. For example, in the 1990s, the Asian Women's Fund was created, but it failed. Later, the government tried to improve the situation in a diplomatic way, but was also unsuccessful after failing to get the victims' approval. If the two countries understand their nature, it is impossible to hastily come up with a political and diplomatic solution. I hope Japan can understand this," Lee said during a seminar held by the Korea News Editors' Association, Wednesday.
His remarks came amid worries that the strained relations between the two countries could largely influence the South's economy and politics. Since last October when the South's court ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean forced laborers who worked during the Japanese colonial rule, politicians from the two countries have been exchanging barbs, blaming each other over several issues such as a military spat caused by Tokyo's claim that a Seoul warship locked fire-control radar on its patrol aircraft.
Lee, who leads a special taskforce on the forced labor issue, has been reiterating the government's stance that Seoul respects Korea's judicial sovereignty and is pursuing a two-track strategy of separating historical issues from economic issues while Japan insists all matters concerning the allegations of forced labor were settled by a 1965 agreement that normalized the two countries' relations.
Meanwhile, Lee hinted at the possibility of holding the summit between the leaders of the two countries at the international summit in Japan next month.
"I hope that the two countries can sign a basic agreement at the upcoming G20 summit in Osaka in June."
He also said he has a positive view on Naruhito, Japan's new emperor who took the throne this month while stressing that it is hard to ask him to reveal his position on the matter.
"I had a chance to have a one-on-one meeting with Naruhito during the World Water Forum in Brazil in March last year. At that time, I had a positive view on him after listening to his thoughts on the history and South Korea."
"We should be cautious about asking him to say his stance as there is a limitation [on his role] as it is subject to the Japanese Constitution."