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US delegation seeks to calm spats between Japan, South Korea

Published on Jan 15, 2013 2:19 PM
Anti-US protesters holding placards during a rally denouncing a military alliance between South Korea, the United States and Japan, and demanding to start six party talks ahead of a visit by US officials in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday. Senior officials from the State Department, Pentagon and White House will travel to Seoul and Tokyo this week after recent elections in both countries. -- PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States sent its top Asian diplomacy and security officials to South Korea and Japan to calm tensions between two US allies whose squabbling has frustrated efforts to deal with a troublesome North Korea and an increasingly assertive China.

The high-powered delegation from the White House, Pentagon and State Department departed on Monday and will be visiting the region shortly after the election of a new nationalist-leaning Japanese government in December and before Seoul inaugurates anew president in February.

Washington hopes South Korea and Japan can put a lid on spats over history and territory stemming from Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of Korea. US officials also seek to reassure Tokyo as it confronts almost daily challenges from China over which has sovereignty of disputed islets in a separate, more dangerous, territorial row with Beijing.

The long-simmering disputes erupted anew last year, plunging Tokyo's ties with Seoul and Beijing to troubling lows and casting a cloud over the President Barack Obama's signature policy for East Asia - rebalancing security forces in the region - in part to cope with a surging China.

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