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(LEAD) S. Korea, Japan agree to improve ties amid N. Korean missile provocation

All News 19:47 July 07, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional details in last 6 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, July 7 (Yonhap) -- The leaders of South Korea and Japan agreed Friday to improve the countries' relations, currently at a low ebb over history issues, while intensifying their joint efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully, South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also agreed to restart summit diplomacy.

"The leaders of the two countries agreed to resume shuttle diplomacy between the countries' leaders, noting their close communication was important for the development of the countries' bilateral relations," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a press release.

The two met in a bilateral summit held on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting in Hamburg, Germany.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe shakes hands before the start of their bilateral summit, held on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

It followed North Korea's test launch of what it claimed to be an intercontinental ballistic missile, greatly raising tensions and prompting fresh condemnation from Seoul and its allies, including the United States.

Pyongyang is prohibited by U.N. Security Council resolutions from developing nuclear weapons or means of their delivery.

The latest missile launch on Tuesday marked the sixth of its kind since the new South Korean president took office in May.

Moon and Abe noted the missile launch was a "very urgent and serious provocation," Park said at a press briefing in Hamburg, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

The two were earlier joined by U.S. President Donald Trump for a three-way meeting that focused on ways to bring North Korea to the dialogue table.

Moon and other global leaders have called for tougher sanctions to bring the reclusive state back to negotiations aimed at ending its nuclear ambition.

In their bilateral talks on Friday, Moon and the Japanese leader agreed to keep pressuring North Korea to denuclearize.

They said the North's denuclearization must be achieved in a complete and irreversible manner, but also through peaceful means.

The South Korean president stressed the need to resume inter-Korean dialogue to that end, and the Japanese leader expressed his understanding, the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said.

They also agreed to seek a three-way summit with China's Xi Jinping in the near future.

They and U.S. President Trump earlier stressed a need for China to play a greater role in reining in North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile capabilities.

China, the North's largest communist ally, singlehandedly accounts for more than 90 percent of North Korea's overall trade, and nearly all of its energy imports.

Turning to bilateral issues, Moon and Abe pledged to work together to enhance cooperation between their countries to help expand their economic and trade relations, as well as personnel exchanges.

Seoul-Tokyo relations often suffer setbacks over history issues that include Japan's territorial claim to a set of South Korean islets in the East Sea, called Dokdo.

They have again turned sour over what many South Koreans consider a Japanese attempt to whitewash its war atrocities.

In a 2015 agreement, Seoul's former conservative agreement under ousted former leader Park Geun-hye agreed to put an end to disputes over Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II in exchange for a mere 10 billion yen (US$8.79 million).

Abe underscored the need to implement the deal to improve the countries' relations in his meeting with Moon in the German port city, according to the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman.

President Moon reiterated that most South Koreans simply could not accept the deal, but said the issue must not keep the two countries from maintaining and further developing their bilateral ties in other areas, Park said.


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