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(LEAD) One-on-one talks between S. Korean, Japanese FMs in Spain seem unlikely: officials

Diplomacy 14:06 December 15, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS lead; ADDS Kang's remarks, more info in paras 7, 10-12, photo)

SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Yonhap) -- A bilateral meeting between the top diplomats of South Korea and Japan is unlikely to take place on the sidelines of the multilateral gathering in Spain this week as they have yet to arrange their schedule, officials said Sunday.

The two countries have been working to set up a one-on-one meeting between Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, on the margins of the foreign ministerial meeting of the 14th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) set to be held in the Spanish capital of Madrid on Sunday through Monday (local time).

But the two sides "have yet to coordinate the schedule despite their willingness to have such a meeting," a Seoul government official said.

Earlier, Japan's broadcaster NHK reported the meeting will not take place.

Kang is set to arrive in the European country late Sunday, but Motegi reportedly is planning to leave Madrid in the early afternoon of Monday.

Instead, Seoul and Tokyo have been reviewing an option to have brief talks during the ASEM meeting early Monday, according to the officials.

"There have been difficulties due to time constraints, but we have still been tuning (the schedule) as both sides have a willingness to meet with each other," Kang told reporters at Incheon International Airport upon leading for Madrid.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks to reporters at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on Dec. 15, 2019, before heading to Madrid to participate in the 14th foreign ministers' meeting of the Asia-Europe Meeting slated for Dec. 15-16. (Yonhap)

If held, the meeting is expected to serve as another chance for the two countries to explore ways to resolve their conflicts over wartime history and trade issues.

The two ministers last met in Nagoya on the sidelines of a foreign ministerial meeting of the Group of 20 nations on Nov. 23, one day after Seoul announced its decision to conditionally suspend the expiry of a bilateral military information-sharing pact with Tokyo known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).

In August, South Korea decided to terminate the three-year-old bilateral military pact in response to Japan's export restrictions on Seoul, which Seoul sees as political retaliation for last year's Korean Supreme Court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of wartime forced labor.

In exchange for the extension decision, the two sides vowed to hold talks to resolve their trade row, with the first talks between high-level officials from their trade authorities on export control systems to be held in Tokyo on Monday.

While in Spain, Kang is also planning to meet with her Asian and European counterparts bilaterally and discuss a range of issues of mutual concern, including security circumstances on the Korean Peninsula and in their regions, as well as ways to further boost relations, according to her office.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (2nd from L) holds talks with her Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi (R), in Nagoya, Japan, on the sidelines of a foreign ministers' meeting of G-20 countries on Nov. 23, 2019. The bilateral meeting came one day after South Korea announced its decision to postpone the termination of a military intelligence sharing deal with Japan, the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA).


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