S. Korea, Japan hold working-level talks amid tensions over trade, history

SEOUL-- South Korea and Japan held working-level diplomatic talks in Seoul on Wednesday, amid hopes that Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon's upcoming trip to Tokyo could provide a turnaround in their ties frayed over Tokyo's export restrictions and wartime forced labor.

Kim Jung-han, director-general for Asian and Pacific affairs at the foreign ministry, met his Japanese counterpart, Shigeki Takizaki, to discuss issues of mutual interest, Seoul officials said.

Their talks came as Lee plans to visit Tokyo to attend Japanese Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony, slated for next Tuesday, in a trip that observers say could create a momentum for a thaw in the frosty relations between the neighboring countries.

The two countries have clashed over Tokyo's new export curbs 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 a bilateral 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.

Before the director-general talks, Seoul's top nuclear negotiator Lee Do-hoon had a luncheon meeting with Takizaki, who also serves as Tokyo's chief nuclear envoy.

Kim and Takizaki last held talks in Tokyo on Sept. 20.

Seoul and Tokyo have agreed to hold such working-level diplomatic talks on a regular basis if possible each month.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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