|South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida hold a joint news conference at the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, March 16. Reuters-Yonhap|
By Nam Hyun-woo
President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida are likely to discuss Tokyo's plan to release radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant during their summit slated for Sunday in Seoul, according to Yoon's office, Thursday.
"Though we are still in negotiations over the agenda for the Yoon-Kishida summit, there is no reason for us to exclude the issue of the Fukushima radioactive wastewater ... if the Korean public thinks it is an important issue," a presidential office representative told reporters.
Kishida is set to make a two-day official visit to Seoul on Sunday, as part of resuming the two countries' "shuttle diplomacy." Yoon visited Tokyo in March to mend Korea's relations with Japan, and Kishida said he is making a return visit to Seoul this time to respond to "Yoon's courageous decisions."
On Sunday, the leaders will hold a summit at Yoon's office in central Seoul. The summit will consist of a small group and they will hold expanded meetings involving their key aides and then they will hold a joint press conference.
During the summit, the two leaders will discuss the two countries' major interests such as national security, advanced industries, science technologies and cultural exchanges, according to Seoul's presidential spokesperson Lee Do-woon.
|Presidential spokesperson Lee Do-woon speaks during a press conference at the presidential office in Yongsan District, Seoul, Thursday. Yonhap|
Following that, the presidential couple will have a casual dinner with Prime Minister Kishida and his wife Yuko Kishida at a place in the presidential office compound. The presidential office is not confirming what will be on the menu, but multiple sources said that the couples will have Korean dishes with rice wine.
The issue of Japan's planned release of radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean has been emerging as a hot-button issue between the two countries after the leaders' previous summit.
Despite Korea's denial, Japanese media reported that Kishida asked Seoul to lift import bans on seafood products from the Fukushima region, while Yoon allegedly implied that he would ask for Koreans' understanding regarding the wastewater release plan.
At the time, Seoul's presidential office said, "The government has a very clear position on this matter" and "it will never accept anything that may pose a risk to public safety and health," meaning further discussions are a possibility when there is scientific verification on the safety of Fukushima seafood products and the wastewater.
Along with the Fukushima wastewater issue, whether Kishida will make any rapprochement gestures regarding the two countries' thorny history during his visit is also being closely watched.
Many experts assume that it is unlikely that Kishida will make an apology to the victims of Japan's wartime forced labor, but the possibility remains that the prime minister may visit the Seoul National Cemetery, where deceased patriots and independence fighters are buried.
Including Shinzo Abe and Yoshihiko Noda, there have been a number of former Japanese prime ministers who paid a visit to Seoul's national cemetery ― when the two countries' relations were amicable.