South Korean President calls for talks to end trade row with Japan

Vastavam web: South Korean President Moon Jae-in offered an olive branch to Japan to end an ongoing trade dispute Thursday, saying Seoul will “gladly join hands” if Tokyo wants to talk. Moon in a nationally televised speech also downplayed the threat posed by North Korea’s recent short-range ballistic launches and expressed hope that Washington and Pyongyang would soon resume nuclear negotiations.

“If a country weaponizes a sector where it has a comparative advantage, the order of peaceful free trade inevitably suffers. A country that accomplished growth first must not kick the ladder away while others are following in its footsteps,” Moon said in reference to Japan.

Moon’s speech at a ceremony marking the 74th anniversary of Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule at the end of World War II came amid heightened public anger and diplomatic fallout over Tokyo’s recent moves to impose trade curbs on South Korea.

fter threatening stern countermeasures and declaring that South Korea would “never lose” to Japan again, Moon has taken a more conciliatory tone over the past week as there was relief in Seoul that the impact of Japan’s trade measures might not be as bad as initially thought. There have also been concerns that the government’s nationalistic calls for unity were allowing public anger toward Japan to reach dangerous levels.

Nevertheless, tens of thousands of people have expected join anti-Japan protests planned for Thursday, including an evening candlelit vigil near Seoul’s presidential palace. Thousands of protesters dressed in raincoats marched in heavy rain toward the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. They carried signs that said “Apologies for War Crimes” and “Compensate Forced Laborers.”

“I have a lot that I want to say, but I can’t,” said an emotional Lee Chun-sik, 95, the only survivor among four plaintiffs who won a landmark compensation case last October against Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp., decades after being forced to work at the company’s steel mills during World War II.

The trade dispute comes as South Korea’s relations with North Korea worsen. Pyongyang has been ignoring Seoul’s calls for dialogue and in recent weeks test-fired a slew of new short-range weapons that potentially threaten the South. Experts say the North’s recent launches are aimed at building leverage for nuclear talks with the United States, and pressuring Seoul to coax major concessions from Washington on its behalf.