Japan, South Korea move forward on trade issue before summit

TOKYO -- Japan and South Korea agreed on steps to resolve a trade dispute hours before a highly anticipated summit began Thursday, a sign that the two countries are making concrete progress on their bid to overcome disputes over history and rebuild their nations’ security and economic ties.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol met as a North Korean missile launch and encounters between Japanese and Chinese vessels in disputed waters earlier Thursday showed what’s at stake for the two countries.

Japan and South Korea have long had disputes over the 1910-1945 Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula and atrocities during World War II, which included forced prostitution of “comfort women” for Japanese soldiers, and territorial disputes over a cluster of islands. Ties reached a nadir when the South Korean Supreme Court ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation to Korean survivors in 2018, and Japan imposed trade sanctions on South Korea shortly after.

The two countries, which have often been at odds over their history, are seeking to form a united front with their mutual ally, the U.S., driven by shared concerns about an restive North Korea and a more powerful China.