Moon urges efforts to improve S. Korea-Japan ties

A shopper picks up a pack of U.S. beef at a wholesale store in Seoul

A shopper picks up a pack of U.S. beef at a wholesale store in Seoul

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, right, shakes hands with her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, ahead of bilateral talks at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in central Seoul Wednesday.

It was the first visit to South Korea by a Japanese foreign minister in more than two years.

"With preparations underway for South Korea and the United States' summits with North Korea, which could serve as a major turning point in attaining denuclearization, (we) hope for cooperation to achieve the two countries' shared goal of peacefully resolving the North's nuclear issue and establishing peace", Kang said in opening remarks ahead of the meeting with Kono.

"I hope the South Korea-Japan relationship will be further developed into the next stage and that the two countries will work together to that end", he told the visiting Japanese diplomat.

"Kono expressed Japan's stance on "comfort women" and Dokdo, and Kang explained our stance over "comfort women" and made clear that the South can not accept any argument by Japan over Dokdo", the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Kono emphasized that Tokyo seeks a resolution to the North Korean nuclear and missile problem and the issue of the abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents in the 1970s and 1980s, according to a senior Foreign Ministry official in Seoul.

They agreed that a pressure campaign and sanctions against North Korea will continue until there is progress in the process of North Korea's denuclearization. The U.S. -North Korea summit will be the first of its kind in history. South Korea said a DPRK torpedo attacked the corvette, which was repeatedly denied by Pyongyang.

Kono was set to pay a courtesy call later in the day to President Moon Jae-in and to have dinner with Kang. Suh, a member of Moon's special delegation to Pyongyang, visited Tokyo last month to brief the Japanese government on the results of the meeting with the North Korean leader.

South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk said there is a precedent for a potential Kono visit to the cemetery.

According to the officials, Kono asked Kang to put a stop to a plan by a group of South Korean lawmakers to make a visit next week to islets in the Sea of Japan controlled by South Korea but claimed by Japan.

He also repeated Japan's call for South Korea to stick to a December 2015 bilateral agreement on the issue of "comfort women" forced into Japanese wartime military brothels.

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