PM’s meeting with Abe will serve as important momentum in resolving tensions: finance minister

WASHINGTON-- A widely expected meeting between South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely serve as "important momentum" in resolving history and trade tensions between the two countries, Deputy Prime Minister Hong Nam-ki said.

Lee plans to visit Tokyo to attend Japanese Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony, slated for Tuesday, in a trip that observers say could pave the way for a thaw in the countries' ties frayed over Tokyo's export restrictions and wartime forced labor.

Officials said Lee is expected to meet one-on-one with Abe, though an exact time has yet to be set.

"Prime Minister Lee meeting with Prime Minister Abe on the occasion of the Japanese emperor's enthronement could serve as an important momentum," Hong said during a meeting with South Korean correspondents in Washington. He was in D.C. for annual international conferences.

Hong also said that next month's expiration of a military information-sharing agreement between South Korea and Japan could also serve as momentum encouraging the two sides to make greater efforts to resolve the protracted row.

"I think this issue should be resolved before the year's end so as to get uncertainties removed," he said.

Hong also said the government is making efforts to resolve the issue through dialogue, adding that behind-the-scenes discussions are under way with Japan. But working-level talks have their limits.

"I think Prime Minister Lee's visit to Japan is an important opportunity to make progress," he said.

South Korea and Japan have clashed over Tokyo's export curbs that are seen as political retaliation for last year's Korean Supreme Court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

Friction has also continued unabated over Seoul's decision to withdraw from the military information-sharing deal seen as a rare case of two-way defense collaboration and a symbolic platform to promote Washington's trilateral security cooperation with its two Asian allies.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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