Moon, Abe hold 11-minute separate ‘conversation’ in Bangkok

BANGKOK-- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe agreed Monday to resolve a trade fight and other pending issues between the two sides through dialogue, Cheong Wa Dae said, as the leaders had their first official one-on-one "conversation" in more than a year.

They sat down together for 11 minutes in a waiting room right before the ASEAN Plus Three summit held at IMPACT Forum in Bangkok.

They agreed that Seoul-Tokyo relations are of importance and reaffirmed the "principle" of resolving pending bilateral issues through dialogue, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung.

They also expressed hope that the neighboring countries will hammer out ways for "substantive progress" in official consultations between their foreign ministries, she said.

Moon proposed a review of whether higher-level consultations are necessary, and Abe agreed to explore a resolution by use of "every available means," Ko added. She said they met in a "very friendly and serious" mood.

She characterized their impromptu meeting as a bilateral "conversation," neither formal talks nor a "pull-aside." Moon requested it without any prior consultations or preparations related to formality and agenda items, Ko pointed out.

In late October, South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon visited Tokyo for Emperor Naruhito's formal enthronement ceremony and had talks with Abe. Lee conveyed Moon's personal letter on his willingness to hold a summit with Abe.

During the Bangkok meeting, meanwhile, Abe reiterated the Japanese government's "basic stance" on the sticking point in bilateral relations to Moon, Japan's foreign ministry said in its own statement. It refers to the country's claim that all reparation issues related to Japan's 35-year-long colonization of Korea from 1910 were settled in a 1965 state-to-state accord on normalizing diplomatic ties.

Ko did not mention Abe's message in a press briefing here on his dialogue with Moon. South Korea's Supreme Court ruled in favor of some Korean victims of Japan's wartime forced labor, saying they retain the right to individual compensation.

The wives of Moon and Abe -- Kim Jung-sook and Akie -- joined a group tour of the Bangkok National Museum, during which they were seen chatting with each other.

Ko said the Moon-Abe dialogue is expected to serve as a chance for the development of Seoul-Tokyo ties in a "more amicable, forward-looking" way.

"I think it's time to pool wisdom on various methods in that process," she said.

Seoul-Tokyo relations have worsened since Tokyo's toughening of export curbs against Seoul in early July in apparent protest over historical issues.

Moon and Abe had their last official talks in September last year, when they attended a United Nations General Assembly session. They met each other in Osaka in late June during a Group of 20 summit.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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