Japan, South Korean foreign ministers vow further talks after freeze in ties

South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin (2nd L) rides in a convertible with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, followed by General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, riding with General Jung Seung-jo, the chairman of South
South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin (2nd L) rides in a convertible with US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, followed by General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, riding with General Jung Seung-jo, the chairman of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (partially obscured) during an honor guard ceremony at the Defense Ministry in Seoul on October 2, 2013. -- PHOTO: AFP

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar (AFP) - Japan and South Korea vowed to "deepen communication" in the future during a rare meeting Saturday, diplomatic sources said, following a collapse in relations between the neighbours.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida held "candid" talks with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se on the eve of a regional security dialogue in the Myanmar capital Naypyidaw, a Japanese diplomatic source said.

Koichi Mizushima, deputy press secretary at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that the two nations had discussed "the future direction of the Japan and Korea relationship".

"They agreed on the importance to continue and deepen communication," he told AFP, adding that future talks would be at various levels, including the foreign ministers.

"Although there are some difficult issues between the two countries, the good relationship between Japan and Korea is for the mutual benefit not only for both countries but also good for the peace and stability of the Asia Pacific region," he said.

The last official meeting between the two foreign ministers was in September last year in New York.

A summit between the leaders of the two nations in March, brokered by US President Barack Obama, failed to dampen the rancour between the neighbours, which stems from disputes related to Japan's 1910-45 rule over the Korean peninsula.

They include a territorial row over a tiny batch of rocky islets and Seoul's demands for further reparations for Korean women - so called "comfort women" - forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese World War II military brothels.

Japan has long maintained that all issues relating to the colonial period were settled under a 1965 bilateral treaty that normalised diplomatic ties with South Korea.

But in a sign of the depth of the antipathy, on Tuesday Seoul's foreign ministry issued a statement branding Japan's claim to the islands "ludicrous" and "unacceptable".

The rift is a source of increasing anxiety for the United States, whose strategic "pivot" to Asia is on a more fragile footing with its two main military allies in the region barely on speaking terms.

Both Japan and South Korean ministers are in Myanmar to attend Sunday's Asean Regional Forum, an annual security dialogue.

The meeting will bring together foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and key partners, including China, India, Russia, the US and the European Union.

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