Japanese, South Korean leaders offer prayers at memorial ceremony for Korean atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima


HIROSHIMA, Japan — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Seo-yue held prayers together Sunday at a memorial for the South Korean victims of the 1945 atomic bombing in Hiroshima, on the sidelines of the Group of Seven (G7) summit. . Efforts to repair relationships repeatedly damaged by conflicts stemming from Japan’s wartime atrocities.

Yoon was in Hiroshima with seven other guest countries and G7 leaders for an “outreach” session on Sunday, the final day of the three-day summit.

Kishida and Yoon met after laying flowers and joined US President Joe Biden late Sunday to discuss further deepening security cooperation, including how to strengthen US nuclear deterrence against two key regional allies. .

According to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the three leaders discussed strengthening cooperation, including real-time sharing of North Korean missile warning data, as part of their response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. The two leaders also discussed economic security cooperation and engagement with the Pacific island nations where China is increasing its influence.

Yun and Kishida, accompanied by their first lady, stood in front of the memorial, laid out a bouquet of white flowers and bowed to pay tribute to the tens of thousands of Koreans killed in the attack 78 years ago. expressed.

Yoon was the first South Korean leader to visit the memorial, highlighting the thaw in relations.

Yoon opened a meeting with Kishida late Sunday morning, praising Japan’s prime minister for his “sincere determination” to improve relations. The meeting between the two will be the third in two months since Yoon visited Tokyo as an ice breaker in March. He said he hoped to deepen cooperation not only between the two countries but also on global issues “based on deep trust”.

At the meeting, Kishida said that the leaders’ visit to the South Korean monument was “extremely important for Japan-South Korea relations and for praying for world peace.”

Afterwards, Kishida, accompanied by Yoon and other leaders of guest countries, visited the Atomic Bomb Museum, which commemorates the victims, and offered prayers at the main cenotaph in Peace Memorial Park. This is the focus of the summit for Kishida, who seeks to emphasize nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. .

Relations between the two countries have cooled rapidly since March when the Yun administration announced the creation of a local fund to compensate some former workers. Tokyo and South Korea are under pressure from Washington and share a sense of urgency to improve relations amid growing security threats in the region.

Kishida and Yoon have held successive meetings in Tokyo and Seoul in recent months aimed at resolving disputes involving the sexual abuse of “comfort women” at military brothels in Tokyo during World War II. bottom.

About 20,000 ethnic Koreans living in Hiroshima are believed to have died in the first nuclear attack. A wartime military stronghold, the city was home to a large number of Korean workers, including those forced to work in mines and factories during Japan’s colonization of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.


Mari Yamaguchi