Moon, Abe back dialogue to resolve South Korea-Japan dispute: Seoul

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (second from right) talking with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second from left) during their meeting in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the 35th Asean Summit, on Nov 4, 2019.
South Korea's President Moon Jae-in (second from right) talking with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (second from left) during their meeting in Bangkok, on the sidelines of the 35th Asean Summit, on Nov 4, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's President Moon Jae-in on Monday (Nov 4) suggested high-level talks to resolve a deepening political and trade row with Japan during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Mr Moon's spokesman said.

The two leaders held an 11-minute discussion on the sidelines of a meeting of Asean in Bangkok, the spokesman, Ms Ko Min-jung, said in a statement.

"Both leaders reaffirmed the principle that bilateral issues should be resolved through dialogue," she said, referring to ongoing working-level talks between the two countries' foreign ministries.

"President Moon offered higher-level talks if necessary, and Prime Minister Abe suggested seeking a resolution through all available means."

The meeting comes as bilateral ties plunged to their lowest in decades after South Korea's top court last year ordered Japanese firms to compensate some wartime forced labourers.

As the feud spilled over into trade and security issues, Mr Moon and Mr Abe have not held a summit for more than a year, though they shook hands at a Group of 20 leaders' meeting in Japan in June.

Mr Moon sent Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon to Tokyo last month for Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony with a personal letter calling for efforts to mend ties.

But there has been little sign of progress, as Mr Abe said the issue of wartime forced labour was settled by a 1965 treaty that normalised relations following Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule.