Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in South Korea on Sunday as Seoul and Tokyo seek to restart their “shuttle diplomacy” and mend ties in the face of growing nuclear threats from Pyongyang. The plane carrying Kishida landed at Seoul Airport in Seongnam on Sunday — the first official bilateral visit by a Japanese leader to South Korea in over a decade. He was greeted by officials ahead of a key summit later in the day with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol. The East Asian neighbours, both key security allies of the United States, have long been at odds over historic issues linked to Japan’s brutal 1910 to 1945 colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula, including sexual slavery and forced labour. But President Yoon has made resetting ties with Japan a top priority for his administration, and was in Tokyo in March for a key fence-mending visit. Kishida said Sunday ahead of his departure that the two leaders were working to resume their so-called “shuttle diplomacy” — paused for years during a bitter trade spat linked to the forced labour issue. During their March summit, Kishida and Yoon agreed to end tit-for-tat trade curbs, with Kishida inviting the South Korean leader to a G7 meeting in Hiroshima this month. Kishida said he was looking forward to “an honest exchange of views” with Yoon, “based on a relationship of trust”. After his arrival, Kishida will visit the Seoul National Cemetery — where South Korea’s war veterans are buried — to lay flowers. He will hold talks with Yoon on Sunday afternoon.Yoon is expected to host a dinner party at the presidential residence — likely serving Korean barbeque — and he may even cook for Kishida, according to local reports. In 2018, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered Japanese firms to compensate the wartime victims of forced labour, enraging Tokyo and triggering a breakdown in ties.But Yoon, who took office last year, has sought to bury the historical hatchet, earlier announcing a plan to compensate victims without direct involvement from Tokyo.Kishida said Sunday that the leaders planned to hold “candid exchanges” on this topic.Around 100 South Koreans gathered Saturday to protest Kishida’s trip, saying that Japan’s wartime animosities must be on top of the agenda at Sunday’s summit. Kishida “must sincerely apologise for Japan’s crimes against humanity and fulfil its responsibilities,” said demonstrator Kim Jae-won.The best possible outcome for Koreans would be for “Kishida to apologise in his own words,” Benjamin A. Engel, research professor at the Institute of International Affairs at Seoul National University, told AFP. “Even then it probably won’t be enough for many Koreans, but if Kishida has nothing new to say compared with the previous meeting the summit will not be well received in Korea,” Engel said.Efforts to mend ties come as North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who last year declared his country an “irreversible” nuclear power, doubles down on weapons development and testing. Pyongyang has conducted a record-breaking string of launches in 2023, including test-firing the country’s first solid-fuel ballistic missile — a technical breakthrough.