S. Korean NIS director coordinating meeting with Suga, Japanese broadcaster reports

Posted on : 2020-11-10 17:19 KST Modified on : 2020-11-10 17:19 KST
Park Jie-won recently met with LDP secretary-general
On Nov. 9, Japanese broadcaster TBS reports that South Korean NIS Director Park Jie-won will visit Japan to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as early as Nov. 10. (TBS screenshot)
On Nov. 9, Japanese broadcaster TBS reports that South Korean NIS Director Park Jie-won will visit Japan to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga as early as Nov. 10. (TBS screenshot)

National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director Park Jie-won is reportedly coordinating a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga while visiting Japan to discuss issues such as forced labor victims, a key area of contention in South Korea-Japan relations. This marks the first time a senior South Korean official has visited Japan since Suga took office.

Japanese broadcaster TBS reported on Nov. 9 that Park was “in the final coordinating stages for a courtesy visit with Prime Minister Suga at his official residence as early as Nov. 10.” The day before, Park met with Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai, with whom he has a longstanding friendship. A close associate of Suga’s, Nikai is reportedly a close friend who has interacted with Park for nearly 20 years. The two appear to have had a broad-ranging conversation in which they openly shared their views on issues between Seoul and Tokyo, including the forced labor survivors and export controls.

Coming at a time when no headway has been made in negotiations through official dialogue between South Korean and Japanese diplomats, the meeting between the two officials — who are most familiar with the opinions of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Suga, respectively — is garnering attention on the possibility of finding some avenue toward a solution. According to accounts from some officials in the Japanese government, Suga has expressed a highly favorable position on taking part in a scheduled trilateral summit with China in South Korea this year if Seoul can dispel Tokyo’s concerns about the liquidation of assets confiscated from Japanese businesses operating in Korea.

In addition to Nikai, Park also reportedly plans to meet with Director of Cabinet Intelligence Committee Hiroaki Takizawa. Takizawa is the head of the Cabinet Intelligence and Research Office, an organization that gathers and analyzes intelligence on major Japanese policies to report to the prime minister’s office.

“Mr. Park appears to have gone to Japan to clear the way for efforts to resolve the current strain on South Korea-Japan relations,” a National Assembly Intelligence Committee official explained.

“Past NIS directors have often visited for prior coordination ahead of major diplomatic issues,” the source explained.

South Korean ruling and opposition party lawmakers affiliated with the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union also plan to visit Japan on Nov. 12-14 to explore ways of improving South Korea-Japan relations. A delegation of National Assembly members led by Kim Jin-pyo, a Democratic Party lawmaker who chairs the union, plans to meet with Japanese counterparts in the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union. The South Korean delegation also hopes to meet with Suga, although the possibility of this coming to pass remains uncertain, sources said.

By Kim So-youn and Kim Won-chul, staff reporters

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