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International relations

Time needed to solve comfort women row, Moon tells Japan

Historical disputes and security should be separate, South Korean president tells LDP official

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, right, shakes hands with Toshihiro Nikai, secretary general of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

SEOUL -- Settling Japan and South Korea's historical disputes will take time, particularly with regard to wartime "comfort women," South Korean President Moon Jae-in told a key member of Japan's ruling party here Monday.

Moon talked with Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General Toshihiro Nikai for roughly an hour in his first meeting as president with a key official from the Japanese government or the LDP. He sent an envoy to Japan in May, and Nikai was making a reciprocal visit.

Moon explained that many South Koreans, especially former comfort women, have not accepted a 2015 deal aimed at putting the issue to rest, according to the presidential office. Japan must make the effort to understand South Korean sentiment, he reportedly said.

But Moon did not call for renegotiating the deal and stressed that the issue must not impede the development of bilateral ties elsewhere. The president supports a two-track approach to Japan, separating historical disputes from other aspects of their relationship, especially regional security issues.

Moon reportedly expressed a desire to address issues directly while taking a more pragmatic approach toward forging a forward-looking partnership with Japan.

"We understand that there are different views on historical issues in both countries," Nikai reportedly told the president. He handed Moon a letter from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that called for close communication between them. Moon expressed hopes for a two-way summit on the sidelines of the Group of 20 gathering in Germany this July and for resuming so-called shuttle diplomacy between the leaders of the two Asian neighbors.

Denuclearizing North Korea is necessary for not only world peace, but also the South's survival, Moon said. Seoul and Tokyo are in the same boat and need to make every effort to push Pyongyang into abandoning nuclear weapons, he stressed.

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