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(LEAD) S. Korea urges cooperation with Japan ahead of 2nd Trump-Kim summit

Diplomacy 20:03 February 15, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks, details; CHANGES headline, dateline)

BERLIN, Feb. 15 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's foreign minister called for cooperation with Japan on Friday ahead of the planned second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, despite diplomatic tensions over historical and other issues between the two Asian neighbors.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha made the remarks as she began bilateral talks with her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, in Berlin on the sidelines of a security conference.

"Ahead of the second and important North Korea-U.S. summit, cooperation between South Korea and Japan is especially important," Kang said, adding that she expected to hold "frank and constructive" talks with Kono.

Kono also said he hoped to frankly exchange opinions with Kang ahead of the planned summit between Trump and Kim, although there are "many difficult issues" between Seoul and Tokyo.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (R) and her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, shake hands before holding bilateral talks in Berlin on Feb. 15, 2019. (Yonhap)

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 Trump and Kim 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.


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