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(Yonhap Interview) Germany welcomes diplomatic thaw between S. Korea, Japan: Scholz

15:00 May 19, 2023

BERLIN, May 19 (Yonhap) -- German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Friday his government clearly welcomed an approach by South Korea and Japan to rapidly thaw long-strained bilateral ties, emphasizing the need for close cooperation with Seoul and Tokyo over geopolitical tensions in the Indo-Pacific region.

In an exclusive written interview with Yonhap News Agency ahead of his visit to South Korea for summit talks with President Yoon Suk Yeol, Scholz said such initiatives to mend ties between Seoul and Tokyo required "political courage and broader perspective."

During the summit, Scholz said he will give Yoon his explicit respect for such initiatives.

South Korea and Japan are "close partners to us, sharing values and goals," Scholz said, adding that, along with Germany, the three nations "are firmly convinced that conflicts around the world should be resolved under the rules of international law." The interview was conducted in German and translated into English.

Yoon held a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in Seoul earlier this month. The summit was the second of its kind in less than two months and marked the resumption of "shuttle diplomacy" between the countries' leaders after a 12-year hiatus.

Bilateral relations have warmed significantly since the Yoon administration offered in March to resolve a dispute over wartime forced labor by compensating the Korean victims without contributions from Japanese firms.

In this file photo, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol (R) and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz pose for a photo prior to their talks in New York on Sept. 21, 2022, as they meet on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. (Yonhap)

The German chancellor plans to arrive in Seoul on Sunday for the summit with Yoon after attending a Group of Seven summit in Hiroshima, Japan. He will first visit the Demilitarized Zone, which separates the two Koreas, ahead of the summit.

On North Korea, Scholz said Germany is monitoring developments related to the country's missile tests and that it condemns such threatening actions in the strongest terms.

He stressed that North Korea's missile provocations are in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and that they cannot be justified in any way.

To increase pressure on North Korea, Scholz said Germany is imposing sanctions against North Korea at the European Union-level to apply pressure to the North's regime and that they were aimed at the country's leadership as opposed to average people undergoing harsh lives.

However, it is also important to be open to dialogue with Pyongyang, Scholz said, adding that Germany is ready to support South Korea's initiative for talks with North Korea.

In this file photo, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (2nd from L) speaks during a South Korea-Germany summit in New York on Sept. 21, 2022, held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. (Yonhap)

The chancellor also praised South Korea for providing humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and participating in sanctions against Russia, while saying it was up to each nation to determine how they decide to help out Ukraine.

Scholz also stressed the importance of nations properly acknowledging historical misdeeds and sincerely atoning for past atrocities, as exemplified in former German Chancellor Willy Brandt's historic moment of remorse for Nazi war crimes at a monument in Warsaw in 1970.

Also, he noted the importance of preserving historical memories and expanding them from the perspective of future generations.

The chancellor will be the first German leader to visit Seoul in 13 years since former Chancellor Angela Merkel's trip in 2010 to attend a Group of 20 summit. He will also be the first German chancellor to visit Seoul for a bilateral meeting in 30 years since former Chancellor Helmut Kohl's visit in 1993.


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