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Foreign ministry restores phrase 'closest neighbor' describing Japan in white paper

All News 15:12 February 05, 2021

SEOUL, Feb. 5 (Yonhap) -- The foreign ministry has restored the expression "closest neighbor" to refer to Japan in its latest white paper published this week, as Seoul pushes to improve ties with Tokyo frayed over wartime issues.

"Japan is South Korea's closest neighboring country that we should work with not only for bilateral relations but also for the peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and the world," according to the 2020 white paper released Friday.

In the 2019 version, Japan was described as a "neighboring country," which was seen as reflecting their chilled relations, as opposed to "the closest neighbor geographically and culturally" and a "partner" as written in the 2018 white paper.

Bilateral relations between Seoul and Tokyo have deteriorated sharply after South Korean courts ruled in favor of Korean victims seeking damages from Tokyo and Japanese companies over wartime sexual enslavement and forced labor.

Tokyo hit back with export restrictions against Seoul in apparent retaliation.

The Moon Jae-in government has signaled a willingness to mend ties with Tokyo to move the stalled nuclear diplomacy with North Korea forward in cooperation with Japan and the new U.S. administration under President Joe Biden, who has called for strengthening regional alliances.

Meanwhile, the ministry also said in the latest white paper that the government focused its diplomatic efforts to keep the dialogue momentum alive among the two Koreas and the United States while managing the situation on the Korean Peninsula in a stable manner.


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