Japan, S. Korea affirm close communication to improve ties

The South Korean and Japanese governments affirmed Friday at a deputy foreign minister-level meeting their commitment to communicate closely on various levels to find solutions to such thorny issues as compensation suits over wartime forced labor in Japan and the South's restrictions on Japanese fishery products.

In the talks between Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kyou Hyun, in Seoul, Kim said, "I believe that even Japan is clearly aware that something is acting as a barrier to bilateral relations," referring to issues related to Japan's wartime history including "comfort women" who were coerced into sexual servitude.

"I would like Japan to play an active role" in improving ties, he added, calling on Tokyo to meet Seoul halfway to overcome their differences.

In response, Sugiyama said that, from a comprehensive perspective, Japan-South Korea relations are developing, while acknowledging it is not desirable for ties to chill over certain issues.

Both officials also agreed to continue cooperation on the issue on the North Korea nuclear issue.

Prior to the talks, Sugiyama also exchanged views with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Kyung Soo.

Both sides reaffirmed their policy of continuing to hold dialog in areas where cooperation is possible, and pledged to continue making arrangements for three-way cooperation with China aimed at stability in the East Asia region.

According to diplomatic sources, Sugiyama also sought acceptance of Japan's domestic discussions on exercising the right of collective self-defense.

South Korea has imposed the import ban on all fisheries products from Fukushima Prefecture and seven surrounding prefectures since Sept. 9, citing the leakage of contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Also, South Korean courts ruled in favor of Koreans who were forcibly conscripted as laborers during World War II three times this year, ordering Japanese companies to pay them compensation.