South Korea realizes it needs Japan as a partner

TOKYO/SEOUL - Japan and South Korea on Saturday held ministerial-level meetings for the first time in more than two years. Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso and South Korean Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan met in Tokyo, while trade ministers from the two nations met in the Philippines.

The meetings are being interpreted as a turning point in the two countries' relations, damaged by territorial and other disputes. The discussions were partly the result of US efforts to get the two governments to talk to each other.

Geopolitics also played a role in bringing the two sides together. The neighbours realise that presenting a less divided front is essential now that China is emerging stronger and feistier than ever.

The first step the two countries want to take toward rebuilding their relations is cooperating in economic and financial matters in a way that produces practical outcomes.

But reconciliation will not be easily achieved. Japan recently brought a complaint against South Korea to the World Trade Organisation over import restrictions on Japanese food.

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