SEOUL-- President Yoon Suk-yeol said Friday he believes South Korea and Japan should discuss past and future issues simultaneously to overcome the disputes that have plagued their relations in recent years.
Yoon made the remark to reporters on Air Force One en route home from Spain where he attended the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit this week and had multiple encounters with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida on the sidelines.
"I have stressed that historical issues and issues about the two countries' future should all be placed on one table and resolved together," the president said.
"We must reject the approach that without progress between the two countries on historical issues, there can be no discussion on current and future issues," he continued. "They can all be discussed together, and I believe that if South Korea and Japan can work together for the future, historical issues will also be resolved for sure."
Relations between South Korea and Japan have suffered in recent years due to disputes stemming from Tokyo's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, including the issues of wartime sex slaves and forced labor.
Yoon has expressed a commitment to improving the badly frayed relations.
After meeting Kishida for the first time in Madrid, he told reporters he came away confident that the prime minister would become a "partner" in resolving issues between the two countries and developing bilateral ties.
The relationship between South Korea and Japan has undermined trilateral cooperation with the United States in countering North Korea's nuclear threats.
Yoon, Kishida and U.S. President Joe Biden held a trilateral summit on the margins of the NATO gathering in what was the first such meeting in nearly five years.
"We agreed in principle that it would be desirable to resume (trilateral) military-security cooperation, which has been suspended for a considerable period of time, in order to respond to the North Korean nuclear issue," Yoon said.
"I believe we will make progress on the details as discussions continue between the foreign ministers, defense ministers and other security officials of each country," he added aboard the flight.
Military cooperation with Japan is a sensitive issue in South Korea due to lingering resentment over Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and suspicions that Japan could attempt again to seek militarism.
Earlier, a presidential official had rejected talk of military cooperation with Japan as something far off into the future.
Source: Yonhap News Agency