South Korea, Japan resume annual defence talks

SEOUL (AFP) - South Korea and Japan on Wednesday resumed their annual defence dialogue, after last year's meeting was cancelled due to diplomatic strains over historical and territorial disputes.

Seoul's defence ministry said the bilateral meeting - held every year since 1994 except for 2014 - began in Seoul between delegations led by Yoon Soon-Gu, director general of international policy at Seoul's defence ministry, and his Japanese counterpart Atsuo Suzuki.

The officials discussed North Korea as well as Japan's recent moves to revise its pacifist constitution, a defence ministry spokesman said.

Seoul reacted negatively to Japan's proposal for the signing of new bilateral accords on military information and logistical support, he said.

South Korea also expressed concern about the possibility of Japan exercising the doctrine of "collective self-defence" around the Korean peninsula without its consent.

Tokyo is trying to expand the role of its military so that it can come to the aid of allies who are under attack.

Ties between the Asian neighbours have been in the doldrums for several years, with South Korea insisting that Japan apologise and make amends for abuses during its 1910-45 rule over the Korean peninsula.

In particular it wants Tokyo to address the issue of Korean women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.

Japan insists the issue of the so-called "comfort women" was settled in a 1965 agreement that restored diplomatic ties.

The two countries are also at odds over ownership of the sparsely populated Dokdo islets - known as Takeshima in Japan - that sit in the Sea of Japan (East Sea).

Recent moves by Japan's hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to strengthen his country's military and expand its role have been watched extremely warily in South Korea.