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Tokyo, Seoul to hold talks, 'improve ties'

Publication Date : 28-03-2014

 

Japan and South Korea are expected shortly to hold talks between their foreign ministries at the director general level, with an aim to improve strained bilateral relations, according to government sources.

The two governments are currently working to coordinate their views about what topics will be taken up during the envisaged meeting. Seoul wants to see the issue of so-called comfort women exclusively taken up in the talks, the sources said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Tokyo hopes to address a wide range of pending bilateral issues, including the territorial dispute over the group of islets known as Takeshima, which Seoul calls Dokdo, according to officials from both governments who asked not to be named.

Seoul wants to see such talks take place in mid-April.

The bilateral agreement on the director general talks came after Tokyo and Seoul had sought to create an environment conducive to ensuring a summit meeting between Japan, the United States and South Korea took place in The Hague on Tuesday.

At the first tripartite meeting, the three countries reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening cooperation in dealing with issues related to North Korean nuclear and missile development programmes—common concerns for Japan and South Korea—but they did not discuss history or other pending issues between Japan and South Korea. The Japanese government reportedly believes that the success of the talks at the director general level will be the touchstone for actual improvement in the relationship with South Korea, with an eye to realizing a Japan-South Korea summit through the talks.

In the expected foreign ministry meetings, Seoul will likely call on Tokyo to take sincere measures to resolve the comfort women issue, including compensation for individual Koreans. The Japanese government, however, takes the stance that the issue was resolved completely and finally with the agreement on property claims and economic cooperation that was reached in 1965.

“It is not possible for the government to accept legal responsibility for the issue or provide government funds for relevant Koreans,” a senior official at the Foreign Ministry said.

Meanwhile, the Japanese side aims to discuss a wide range of pending issues between the two countries, including the issue of Shimane Prefecture’s Takeshima islands, which are effectively controlled by South Korea, and damage compensation litigation filed against Japanese firms that forced Koreans to work for them during World War II, according to the sources.

 

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