October 1, 2011
On 30 September 2011, the Ministry of foreign Affairs and Trade (MOFAT) announced that Japan’s new foreign minister, Koichiro Gemba, will visit South Korea during 6-7 October 2011, to discuss bilateral relations and North Korea issues. The tentative schedule for the visit includes a Korea-Japan Foreign Ministers’ Meeting followed by a joint press conference; dinner hosted by the host Foreign Minister and a courtesy call on the President.
While this is Minister Genba’s first visit to Seoul since taking office, the two counterparts have already established a working relationship through phone talks on 7 September 2011 and talks in person at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session on 24 September 2011.
South Korea and Japan are at a critical juncture in their relationship. With the rise of China, both states have compelling reasons to strengthen policy coordination. Yet, both states are experiencing political conditions, which give a greater voice to elements within society that seek to use issues in the bilateral relationship to further their own cause. This reduces the ability of both states to address contentious and highly emotional historical issues that remain as a hurdle to stronger policy coordination.
The visit of Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba will provide an insight into how Japan and South Korea will address ongoing bilateral issues, which in turn will ultimately determine the ability of the two states to present a coordinated approach to international issues that they both face.