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Top diplomats of S. Korea, Japan to hold talks amid tensions

All Headlines 16:57 February 15, 2019

SEOUL, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- The top diplomats of South Korea and Japan will hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of a security forum in Munich, Germany, on Friday, Seoul's foreign ministry said, amid heightened tensions over historical and other issues.

The meeting between Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, comes as Tokyo seeks to initiate government talks with Seoul to settle a dispute over South Korean court rulings last year against Japanese firms for wartime forced labor.

They are in the German city to attend the annual three-day Munich Security Conference that began on Friday.

Last year, South Korea's Supreme Court recognized individual victims' rights to claim damages for forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule. But Japan maintains that all reparation-related issues were settled under a Seoul-Tokyo treaty in 1965 that normalized bilateral ties.

Last month, the Japanese government requested official talks with South Korea over the issue. But Seoul has yet to accede to the call, saying it is still "thoroughly examining" it.

Tokyo based its request for talks on Article III of the treaty, which stipulates the two sides are to settle any dispute related to the treaty primarily through diplomatic channels.

If they fail to settle it, the case can then be referred to an arbitral commission consisting of three members -- one each from the two sides and the other from a third country.

Aside from that, Kang and Kono are expected to discuss cooperation to support preparations for the Feb. 27-28 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Hanoi.

In recent months, Seoul-Tokyo relations have worsened due to the long-simmering historical issue as well as military spats, despite calls for closer cooperation in diplomatic efforts to denuclearize North Korea.

This image, provided by Yonhap News TV, shows Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (2nd from L) shaking hands with her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono. (Yonhap)

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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