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Japan, South Korea Hold High-level Talks Amid Strained Ties

  • VOA News

Japan's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Akitaka Saiki, right, shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yong before their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

Japan's Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Akitaka Saiki, right, shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yong before their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

South Korea and Japan held vice ministerial-level talks Wednesday in Seoul to discuss improving strained relations.

The meeting between Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki and his South Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yong is the countries' highest-level diplomatic interaction in months.

Relations between the two Asian powers have plummeted over what Seoul considers Tokyo's unapologetic stance toward Japan's imperialist past. Ties have also suffered over a territorial dispute.

Japanese officials said Saiki was to use the meeting to propose a trilateral summit between leaders of Japan, South Korea and the United States later this month. There has been no South Korean response to the reported offer.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye has refused to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe until he first makes a move to improve relations.

The two countries have not held high-level talks since December, when Abe visited a Tokyo shrine that honors several war criminals, among other war dead.

Seoul has also expressed frustration over what it sees as Tokyo's denial that it forced as many as 200,000 Asian women, mainly South Koreans, to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War Two.

Both countries also claim a group of rocky islands, known as Dokdo in Korea and Takeshima in Japan. The islets are thought to be surrounded by potential energy deposits. They have been under effective South Korean control since the end of Japanese colonial rule after World War II.

Last week, Danny Russel, the top U.S. diplomat on East Asia, called on Japan and South Korea to take steps to improve ties, saying it could jeopardize an important Asian security alliance.

Russel said both countries share many of the same challenges, including North Korea and its nuclear weapons program and other "regional uncertainties."
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