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Seoul, Tokyo hold first talks since Yasukuni visit
Publication Date : 19-02-2014
Senior diplomats of Seoul and Tokyo on Tuesday held the first bilateral talks since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‚Äôs December trip to a controversial war shrine that further strained the two countries‚Äô ties.
The meeting took place here between Lee Sang-deok, new director-general for Northeast Asian affairs at South Korea‚Äôs Foreign Ministry, and Junichi Ihara, director general for Asian and Oceanian affairs at the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
The two diplomats were expected to focus on ways to resolve long-festering historical issues including wartime sex slavery.
With Seoul remaining skeptical in the wake of Abe‚Äôs shrine visit, the focal point appears to be whether the nationalist prime minister is willing to refrain from revisionist moves and take a step forward in historical issues.
The meeting came less than a week after US Secretary of State John Kerry displayed his intent to ‚Äúmeditate‚ÄĚ between his country‚Äôs top regional allies until President Barack Obama‚Äôs planned visit to Seoul in April.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who visited Kerry in Washington early this month, on Tuesday proposed talks with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se, stressing the need to ‚Äúbring forward‚ÄĚ the bilateral relationship.
On Monday, Lee Byung-kee, Seoul‚Äôs ambassador to Tokyo, also held consultations with Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki.
During his two-day stay, Ihara also met with Cho Tae-yong, Seoul‚Äôs special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, as Tokyo‚Äôs chief nuclear negotiator.
Cho was expected to brief the envoy on recent progress in inter-Korean ties and stress trilateral cooperation with the US, given recent news reports that Ihara and two other Japanese diplomats held a covert meeting with three working-level North Korean officials in Hanoi from January 26-27.