(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with Lee's remarks in joint press conference; CHANGES headline)
By Chang Jae-soon
SEOUL, Oct. 19 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Lee Myung-bak said Wednesday he stressed to Japan's prime minister that the two countries should move forward "without forgetting history" and the former colonial ruler should make greater efforts to resolve issues related to the sad past.
Lee made the remark during a joint press conference after summit talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, saying that relations between Seoul and Tokyo are very important not only for both nations, but also for peace and stability in Northeast Asia.
"While mentioning that moving toward the future without forgetting history is the basis for Korea-Japan relations, I emphasized that Japan needs to make active efforts over issues stemming from" the 1910-45 colonial rule, Lee said.
Relations between South Korea and Japan have often suffered setbacks due to territorial and historical rows related to their colonial past, as Tokyo has attempted to glorify its militaristic history and lay claim to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.
Noda arrived in Seoul on Tuesday for a two-day trip, his first to South Korea since taking office last month. Wednesday's summit will be the second face-to-face meeting between Lee and Noda as they met on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly last month.
Officials said that Noda first offered to visit Seoul, a move seen as an attempt by Tokyo to fix relations with Seoul that were strained when Tokyo raised a series of territorial claims over South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo earlier this year.
In a friendly gesture, Noda brought with him five volumes of centuries-old, royal Korean books seized during its 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea, the first batch of a total of 1,205 volumes that Japan has pledged to return to Seoul to back up last year's apology by former Prime Minister Naoto Kan for the colonial rule.
Noda returned the books to South Korea during the summit.
Lee said that he also discussed the issue of currency swap with Japan as it is important to strengthen currency cooperation between the two countries in order to stabilize the countries' financial markets amid growing uncertainties in the global economy.
In the height of the global financial crisis, South Korea and Japan expanded their won-yen swap facility to $20 billion from $3 billion. Last year, the two sides closed the extra currency swap line as the global financial markets showed signs of stabilizing.
The current won-yen swap facility is set to expire on July 3, 2013.
South Korea also has a won-dollar swap arrangement of $10 billion with Japan, which can be tapped in the event of an emergency.
Lee also said the two countries agreed to strengthen working-level discussions on a possible free trade agreement. Free trade negotiations between the sides have been stalled due in part to South Korea's large trade deficit with Japan and disagreement over how much Japan should open up its agricultural sector.
On North Korea, Lee said the two leaders shared an understanding that ending North Korea's nuclear programs is crucial for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, and agreed to continue to work closely together for the goal.
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