S. Korea, Japan hold talks on bilateral ties, N. Korea

SEOUL, South Korea and Japan held a set of diplomatic talks in Seoul Monday over their strained ties and efforts to denuclearize North Korea, amid tensions caused by historical and other issues.

Kim Yong-kil, director-general for Northeast Asian affairs at Seoul's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, met Japanese counterpart Kenji Kanasugi to discuss the issues that have further frayed the bilateral relationship long beset by historical grievances.

Among the issues was a spat over the recent rulings by Korea's Supreme Court that two Japanese firms should compensate Koreans forced to toil without pay at their factories during World War II.

The top court recognized the individual rights of the colonial-era victims to claim damages. But Japan has protested the rulings, saying all reparation-related issues were settled in a 1965 deal to normalize bilateral diplomatic ties.

Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45.

Adding to the diplomatic friction was Japan's claim that a South Korean warship directed fire-control radar at its maritime patrol aircraft on Thursday.

Seoul rejected the claim, saying Tokyo misunderstood its naval operation to help a North Korean ship drifting near a sea border in the East Sea.

"Our military carried out a normal operation for the humanitarian rescue operation, and it has never taken any step that would make the Japanese side feel threatened," Col. Lee Jin-woo, the deputy spokesman of Seoul's defense ministry, told reporters.

Despite Seoul's denial, Tokyo has repeatedly raised the issue, sparking speculation that the Japanese government appears to be trying to divert attention from its waning public support.

Earlier in the day, Lee Do-hoon, Seoul's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, held talks with Kanasugi, who doubles as Tokyo's top nuclear envoy.

During the meeting, the two discussed ongoing efforts to resume stalled negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang and cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo to support diplomacy to achieve denuclearization and a lasting peace on the peninsula.

"We have agreed to continue close communication and cooperation based on the outcome of the consultations this time," a Seoul official said on condition of anonymity.

Source: Yonhap news Agency

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