Prime Minister Han Duck-soo (center) leaves for Japan to attend the state funeral for assassinated former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
About 4,300 were to attend the ceremony that kicked off at 2:00 p.m. at the Nippon Budokan Hall in Tokyo, with at least 48 current or former government officials, including the US vice president.
Before the funeral, Han met with Harris to discuss the South Korea-US alliance and the escalating military threats from North Korea. Pyongyang launched a short-range ballistic missile on Sunday, in an apparent protest against the entry of a US nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in South Korean territory for a combined maritime exercise with the Korean Navy.
Harris will travel to Seoul on Thursday and plans to visit the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas. Han said her trip is “symbolic” in that it shows the strong determination of the US to maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula.
“(US Vice President Harris’) visit to the DMZ and Seoul is very symbolic in that it shows the strong commitment of the US in handling the North Korean nuclear threats and for security and peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Han said.
Harris told Han the alliance is “the linchpin of security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” adding that the US and Korea will work together to counter the challenges that lie ahead.
Han also delivered South Korea’s concerns about the US Inflation Reduction Act, which hit against Korean electric vehicle makers, and asked for attention and support from the US administration to minimize the impacts of the law.
Harris explained that the US government is well aware of Korea’s concerns, and said it will continue to make efforts to find a solution under close consultation with the Korean government.
The IRA that was signed last month provides tax credits only to those who buy EVs produced in North America. After its passage, Korean EV makers selling their cars in the US market were immediately disadvantaged, as they manufacture their flagship models in Korea.
At Abe’s state funeral, held months after his assassination on July 8, the Korean delegation attending the event included Yoon Duk-min, the Korean ambassador to Japan, and Yoo Heung-soo, head of the Korea-Japan Friendship Association and a former Korean ambassador to Japan.
Deputy National Assembly Speaker Chung Jin-suk also traveled with the delegation to lead a group of lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties, who are members of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union.
After the ceremony, Han was to participate in a reception hosted by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Akasaka Palace, the state guest house, before attending a banquet at the Korean Embassy in Tokyo.
On Wednesday, Han was to hold bilateral talks with Kishida. There, he is expected to discuss ways to improve their long-strained ties and their cooperation on the security and economy fronts.
Han’s meeting with Kishida comes just a week after South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol held the first in-person meeting with his Japanese counterpart in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
By Jo He-rim ([email protected])