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(LEAD) Japan's new FM stresses need to improve frayed ties with S. Korea

All News 17:03 November 11, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with Seoul minister's letter in last 2 paras; CHANGES dateline)

TOKYO/SEOUL, Nov. 11 (Yonhap) -- Japan's new foreign minister on Thursday emphasized the need to repair soured ties with South Korea and step up cooperation for regional security but urged Seoul to offer acceptable solutions to resolve the prolonged historical disputes.

Yoshimasa Hayashi, a veteran lawmaker with wide Cabinet-level experience, called South Korea Japan's "important neighbor" and said the frayed bilateral relations shouldn't be left as they are now.

"After recovering South Korea-Japan ties to healthy relations, (I) hope to accelerate consultations and dialogue between diplomatic channels to cooperate in various areas," Hayashi said during his first press conference since taking office Wednesday.

The former defense minister said trilateral security cooperation between Tokyo, Seoul and Washington is important for dealing with the rising North Korean threat and enhancing regional stability.

"Cooperation between Japan, the United States and South Korea is inevitable to coordinate responses to North Korea and improve regional stability," he said.

Hayashi, however, reiterated Tokyo's earlier position that Seoul should offer solutions to resolve issues related forced labor and comfort women, which are main sources of contention.

"I will strongly urge (South Korea) to offer solutions that Japan can accept at an early date," he said.

Relations between the two nations remain frozen after Tokyo imposed export curbs against Seoul in 2019, in what many view as retaliation for South Korean court rulings on forced labor and sexual slavery victims.

Japan has claimed all reparation issues stemming from its 1910-45 colonization of Korea were settled under a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries.

South Korea's Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong sent a letter to his new Japanese counterpart Wednesday, in which he suggested joint efforts for the improvement of bilateral ties, according to an official at Chung's ministry.

In the letter, Chung congratulated Hayashi on his appointment and requested cooperation to develop Seoul-Tokyo relations, the official told reporters on the customary condition of anonymity.

The flags of South Korea (L) and Japan are seen in this undated file composite image, provided by Yonhap News TV. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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