South Korea, Japan to resume security talks despite conflict over history

SEOU (REUTERS) - Senior officials of South Korea and Japan will resume security talks next week after more than five years, with the hope of normalising dialogue despite recent diplomatic spats.

South Korea this week twice summoned Japanese envoys to protest what it saw as an attempt by Tokyo to whitewash its wartime past by making fresh claims to disputed islands.

The protests came after the foreign ministers of the two countries and China pledged last week in their first meeting in nearly three years to improve ties and overcome tension so that their leaders can soon resume what had been an annual summit.

South Korea said it would host the security dialogue of foreign and defence officials on Tuesday in Seoul. The officials would discuss cooperation in the areas of defence and national security, South Korea's foreign ministry said.

Japan's Defence Minister Gen Nakatani said on Friday he hoped to meet his South Korean counterpart soon, possibly at an annual forum of defence chiefs from around the world in Singapore in late May.

Such a meeting if realised would be a sign of a further thaw in ties between the United States' two major Asian allies.

Japan's ties with South Korea and China have long been marred over what South Korea and China see as Japanese leaders'reluctance to atone for its wartime past. But Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has tried to ease tension.

Japan colonised the Korean peninsula from 1910 until Japan's World War Two defeat in 1945. Koreans remember Japanese rule with bitterness, saying many people were conscripted into forced labour and women were forced into military brothels.

South Korea's foreign ministry this week summoned Japan's ambassador and another senior envoy to protest Tokyo's claims to islands called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, now controlled by South Korea.

Japan this week approved school textbooks that Seoul said distorts history by claiming the islands, which South Korea sees as stemming from its colonial past.

China issued a separate protest, urging Japan to address its history responsibly and properly educate its youth.

China and Japan have a dispute over East China Sea islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.