Leaders of Japan, South Korea chat at Apec dinner, agree to mend ties

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun Hye have agreed to spur talks begun in April to mend diplomatic ties hurt by issues that include Japan's wartime past, Japan's foreign ministry said.

At a dinner hosted by Beijing during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum, the two leaders had a brief exchange of views and agreed to ensure progress is made in the talks, the ministry said in a statement late on Monday.

Abe, who held a landmark summit with China on Monday, had been calling for a summit with Park since becoming Japan's prime minister.

Apart from a three-way meeting with US President Barack Obama in March, however, relations have remained chilly.

The working-level talks kicked off in April cover the subject of Korean "comfort women" forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War Two, among other issues.

South Korea says Japan has not sufficiently atoned for the women's suffering and has protested against Tokyo's review of a landmark 1993 apology that acknowledged the involvement of Japanese authorities in coercing the women.