SEOUL – A joint investigation from the governments of both Japan and the Republic of Korea has been launched this week in regards to potential espionage from the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, known colloquially as North Korea, the semi-official Yonhap news agency reported early this morning. In a rare showing of solidarity between the two nations, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul this week after a months-long self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. The two leaders discussed Japan’s now infamous “Travel Ban” and the economic and social effects being felt throughout Asia and vowed to work together to assist each other in the recovery process. The ban cost Japan “immensely” according to the Prime Minister, though no figures have been reported from the Japanese government. The Korean President also expressed his “sincere concerns” for the economic impact.

The ban was put in place in response to an outbreak of Mad Cow Disease in the island nation earlier this spring, with Japanese government officials citing tainted beef from overseas as the cause of the outbreak. However, no specific origins have been named – leading to activist groups in Tokyo protesting the report while demanding to know which nation was responsible. Prime Minister Abe and President Moon’s meeting this week raised speculation that the beef might have been intentionally poisoned or contaminated by operatives from North Korea. Suspicions have been raised since the apparent poisoning of Kim Jong-nam, the elder half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at an airport in Malaysia in February using VX gas – an internationally banned nerve agent.

The investigation, to be held simultaneously in both Japan and the Korean peninsula, marks the first cooperation between the new South Korean President and the long-serving Prime Minister of Japan. Prime Minister Abe commended President Moon in a speech given in Seoul at the Blue House, praising his dedication to the safety of the Korean people and in building a stronger friendship between their respective nations – a delicate subject in both nations due to their long history of competition and strife. According to the Prime Minister, the two men are ready to “face the future together in peace, harmony, and cooperation” which is “the only way forward for a healthy world.” American President Donald Trump reportedly called the two leaders after their meeting to congratulate them on their successful meeting and offer assistance, but no statement has yet been issued by the White House. The Chinese government declined to comment.

Not all was peaceful during Abe’s visit, however. Many South Koreans protested the visit, claiming numerous grievances ranging from being unable to contact friends and loved ones in Japan during the ban and accusing the Japanese government of censorship to demanding compensation for lost income and business. A number of members of Korea’s growing right-wing nationalist parties have outright accused Japan of conducting economic warfare, citing the ban as a “weapon” designed to “destroy Korean trade.” The government of North Korea also engaged in saber rattling during the meeting, declaring that any accusations against the government or people of North Korea were “disgusting falsehoods.” The statement denied any wrongdoing and vowed to bring “swift justice” to the “imperialist false leaders of failing states.” The statement did not contain specific details of what retaliation might entail.

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