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Abe says S. Korea, Japan share 'strategic interests'

All News 15:31 January 22, 2016

TOKYO, Jan. 22 (Yonhap) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described South Korea on Friday as his country's "most important neighbor that shares strategic interests," an expression reflecting the mood of improved bilateral ties.

In his annual policy speech in parliament, Abe pointed out that Seoul and Tokyo have put an end to a longstanding source of conflict with a deal on the "comfort women" issue late last month.

Under the agreement, Japan admitted that it's responsible for the sexual enslavement of many Korean women for its military during World War II. It also agreed to pay 1 billion yen (US$8.3 million) to create a foundation for the 46 surviving victims.

Relations between South Korea and Japan are believed to have entered a new phase, although full-fledged improvement in their ties depends on the implementation of the accord that Abe reiterated is "final and irreversible."

"(Japan) will establish a cooperative relationship (with South Korea) for a new era and make certain that peace and prosperity take root in East Asia," he said.

In his 2013 and 2014 addresses, Abe labeled South Korea as Japan's most important neighbor that share "basic value and strategic interests."

Last year, however, he dropped the words amid drawn-out standoffs between the two sides over the interpretation of shared history. Japan colonized Korea from 1910-45.

On China, Abe said he will strengthen the trend of improving Tokyo-Beijing ties under the principle of "strategic reciprocal relations."
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