Moon cites Japan, extra budget as top priorities in talks with political party chiefs

SEOUL, Beginning rare group talks with ruling and opposition party leaders Thursday, President Moon Jae-in proposed two urgent issues relations with Japan and a supplementary budget bill as top agenda items.

"What's most urgent and important now is how we respond to Japan's measure of export restrictions (against South Korean firms)," he said at the Cheong Wa Dae session.

It's necessary to pool wisdom on ways for South Korea to rely less on Japan for the supply of core materials for the manufacturing sector, he added.

"More broadly, I hope we can also discuss ways to resolve the South Korea-Japan conflict at an early date and to recover and further develop friendly ties between the two nations," he added.

The president also stressed the urgency of getting the long-pending multi-trillion won extra budget bill passed at the National Assembly, saying economic conditions are grave.

It's the first time for Moon to hold such a formal group meeting with the heads of the five major parties since March 2018. They are Lee Hae-chan of the liberal, ruling Democratic Party, Hwang Kyo-ahn of the conservative main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), Sohn Hak-kyu of the center-right Bareunmirae Party, Sim Sang-jung of the progressive Justice Party and Chung Dong-young of the center-left Party for Democracy and Peace.

It came after months of sharp political rifts, mainly over the Moon administration's reform drive, economic policy and North Korea strategy.

The LKP chief suddenly accepted the offer to hold the group meeting with the president as Seoul bears the brunt of Tokyo's export curbs, an apparent retaliatory step over historical matters.

Speaking at the outset of the meeting, Hwang also criticized Japan for the use of trade as reprisal.

"I think the Japanese government should withdraw the improper measure and work together for the normalization of the relations between the two nations," he said.

With a diplomatic resolution possible, he argued, the government is just appealing to public sentiment without presenting specific countermeasures.

He called for Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to resolve the row through a summit.

Hwang also used his opening remarks to criticize the Moon administration's income-led growth strategy and urge it to overhaul its economic policy for aggressive deregulation and labor reform.

He called on Moon to punish his diplomatic and security team for failing to take pre-emptive steps against Japan's trade attack.

Hwang's tough stance heralds disputes with Moon in the gathering scheduled to last about two hours.

Moon hopes to produce an agreement in writing but the LKP reportedly favors a joint press statement to sum up the results of the event.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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