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S. Korea, Japan to have working-level talks amid protracted row over history, trade

All News 16:17 March 31, 2021

SEOUL, March 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and Japan will hold working-level diplomatic talks this week to discuss the protracted row over wartime history and trade, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Lee Sang-ryol, director general for Asian and Pacific affairs at Seoul's foreign ministry, left for Tokyo earlier in the day for talks with his Japanese counterpart, Takehiro Funakoshi, the ministry said. The previous working-level talks took place via video links in January.

This week's talks, slated for Thursday, come as South Korea is seeking to mend ties with Japan to create fresh momentum for its peace drive, as the U.S. administration of Joe Biden has stressed the need for strengthening trilateral cooperation with the two Asian allies.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo remain badly frayed after South Korean courts made rulings in favor of Korean victims of forced labor and sexual slavery in compensation suits against Japanese companies. Tokyo has hit back by imposing export restrictions on Seoul in protest.

Tensions flared anew this week as Japan's education ministry approved social studies textbooks for high schools that have reinforced its territorial claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

At the upcoming talks, Lee and Funakoshi are expected to discuss those pending issues and efforts to push for bilateral talks between Foreign Ministers Chung Eui-yong and Toshimitsu Motegi. The two top diplomats have not spoken to each other since Chung took office in February.

In a press conference Wednesday, Chung expressed hope for an early meeting with Motegi in "any format".

"Whether I go to Japan or the Japanese minister comes to Korea or in a third region, I reiterate that I am willing to meet," Chung said.

Other agenda items at the working-level talks may include Japan's plan to discharge radioactive water into the sea from its wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant, another thorny issue in the bilateral relations.

S. Korea, Japan to have working-level talks amid protracted row over history, trade - 1

elly@yna.co.kr
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