The South Korean foreign minister called for "sincere" actions Tuesday to defuse tensions over wartime history in Northeast Asia, in an apparent bid to press Japanese leaders to make efforts for that end.
Yun Byung Se told a joint press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry after their talks in Washington that the two foreign ministers recognized growing uncertainty pervading Northeast Asia in recent times.
Yun did not go into specifics but said, "I pointed out that historical issues stand in the way of reconciliation and cooperation in this region and I emphasized the need for sincere actions."
The South Korean and U.S. foreign ministers "agreed to strengthen our efforts to alleviate tension and promote peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia," Yun said.
The move came after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in late December visited Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war criminals amid objection by countries such as South Korea and China.
Yun and Kerry also repeated their call on North Korea to abandon its nuclear programs. They reaffirmed they "will not accept North Korea as a nuclear state nor as a nuclear-armed state, and nor will the international community abide by that," according to Kerry.
Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo that honors convicted Japanese wartime leaders along with war dead, drawing strong reactions by China and South Korea.
Abe said he made the pilgrimage to renew his resolve to create a peaceful world and will make efforts to have Japan's neighbors understand his act.
Bilateral ties between Japan and South Korea had been strained even before Abe's shrine visit due to disputes over interpretations of history related to Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 and sovereignty over islets in the Sea of Japan.