Japan, S. Korea meet in bid to repair relations frayed by territorial row

TOKYO (AFP) - Japan and South Korea agreed on Thursday to work together on building ties, Japanese officials said, as they look to repair relations frayed by a territorial row.

Vice foreign ministers from the two countries met in Tokyo for their 12th "strategic dialogue" since 2005 and had a "frank exchange of views on ways to further strengthen Japan-South Korea relations", the Japanese ministry said in a statement.

It was the first such meeting since both countries elected new leaders last month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun Hye.

Ties between the two US allies deteriorated last year after outgoing South Korean President Lee Myung Bak made the first presidential visit to tiny disputed islands known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

The visit sent relations into a tailspin and reawakened historical animosities over Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule and the plight of Korean women who were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers.

Japanese vice minister for foreign affairs Chikao Kawai told his South Korean counterpart Ahn Ho Young that their two countries shared "basic values and interests", according to the statement.

Mr Kawai proposed the two countries work together to build a "future-oriented" relationship although "difficult problems occasionally occur", the statement said.

He proposed that Japan and South Korea continue close consultations under their new governments.

The two diplomats also agreed to maintain and strengthen cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States in dealing with North Korea in the wake of a rocket launch widely believed to be a missile test, the statement said.

Mr Abe, who took office in late December, and Ms Park, who is set to take office next month, appear to be trying to reset relations, with an envoy from the Japanese prime minister already having visited Seoul.

Mr Abe's first foreign guest since his swearing in was a close aide to Ms Park, Mr Hwang Woo Yea, chairman of South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party, whom he met on Wednesday alongside other members of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union.

Ms Park last week called for future "reconciliation and cooperation" with Japan.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.