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(LEAD) Top diplomats of S. Korea and Japan agree to cooperate on disarming N. Korea

All News 15:22 June 21, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, UPDATES throughout)

SEOUL, June 21 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her Japanese counterpart agreed Wednesday to work closely together toward the complete denuclearization of North Korea, the foreign ministry said.

The agreement was made during the new foreign minister's first phone conversation with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida held earlier in the day, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Both ministers shared grave concerns over North Korea's continuing provocations," the ministry said of the 20-minute talks. "They agreed to cooperate closely under the framework of South Korea-Japan and South Korea-U.S.-Japan collaboration, to attain their common goal of completely denuclearizing North Korea through all means possible, including sanctions and dialogue."

The top diplomat also concurred that the two countries are close neighbors that share basic values and strategic interest, reaffirming their determination to drive the bilateral relationship in a forward-looking manner. They also promised to meet up in the near future to hold consultations more in detail.

Kishida called for closer communication with Kang and also congratulated her on her inauguration earlier this week.

Still, the brief phone conversation again exposed bilateral tension over their 2015 agreement on Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women. Kishida said the agreement should be faithfully implemented, while Kang stressed that the South Korean public and the sex slavery victims don't approve of the deal and both parties should make efforts to solve the issue.

The phone talks came after media reports showed that Japan's education ministry will announce an education manual on how to teach elementary and middle school students that includes Tokyo's renewed claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo, another source of bilateral contention.


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