(News Focus) At G-7 summit, Yoon focuses on Japan, global community, Ukraine

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol wrapped up a three-day visit to Hiroshima on Sunday after taking new steps to improve relations with Japan, pledging to do more for the global community and holding his first-ever meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Yoon was invited to Hiroshima to attend a Group of Seven (G-7) summit as the leader of one of eight guest nations, making him the fourth South Korean president to attend a G-7 leaders' gathering.

The three-day summit set the stage for a flurry of diplomacy, as Yoon held bilateral summits on the sidelines with leaders from Australia, Vietnam, India, Britain and other countries, and also held his third summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in two months.

Relations between South Korea and Japan have warmed significantly since March, when the Yoon administration offered to resolve a row over wartime forced labor by compensating the Korean victims without asking for contributions from Japanese firms.

The solution led to the resumption of "shuttle diplomacy" between the two countries' leaders after 12 years, with Yoon visiting Tokyo in March and Kishida reciprocating with a visit to Seoul earlier this month.

In Seoul, Kishida said his "heart aches" over the suffering of the wartime forced labor victims, who were made to work in Japanese factories when Korea was under Tokyo's 1910-45 colonial rule, in what was seen by some as an expression of remorse long sought by the victims and other Koreans in generals.

Yoon took the unprecedented step Friday of meeting in Hiroshima with a group of Korean victims of the 1945 atomic bombing and on Sunday visited a cenotaph for the victims at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park.

The visit to the cenotaph was unprecedented for a South Korean president. Yoon was joined by Kishida, making it also the first joint visit by leaders of the two countries.

At the G-7 summit, Yoon attended three expanded sessions involving his counterparts from the bloc and the seven other invited countries.

During the sessions, Yoon pledged an additional US$24 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) this year, an amount nearly triple what South Korea has contributed to CEPI so far.

Yoon also announced plans to expand the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve, a partnership involving the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and South Korea, China and Japan, and help strengthen rice production capacity in at least seven sub-Saharan African countries.

Moreover, Yoon announced South Korea's decision to join the Climate Club established by the G-7 and actively push for carbon neutrality policies while fostering new low-carbon industries.

The series of actions was in line with Yoon's commitment to expanding South Korea's role in the international community and increasing aid for developing nations.

One of the highlights that received the most coverage, however, was Yoon's first-ever meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who arrived in Hiroshima on Saturday to rally support for his country's fight against Russia's invasion.

Yoon promised additional non-lethal aid, including demining equipment and ambulances, while reaffirming South Korea's support for Ukraine, according to his office.

Source: Yonhap News Agency