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Japan-South Korea rift

Foreign ministers agree to arrange Abe-Moon summit in December

Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi shakes hands with South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha before the G20 foreign ministers meeting in Nagoya, Japan on Saturday.   © Reuters

NAGOYA (Kyodo) -- The foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea agreed Saturday to arrange for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Moon Jae In to meet in late December, a sign that the feuding countries are ramping up dialogue after Seoul decided to suspend the termination of a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact.

Toshimitsu Motegi and Kang Kyung Wha confirmed that a trilateral summit including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, to be held in Chengdu in China's Sichuan province, would be a good opportunity for their leaders to hold one-on-one talks, according to Japan's Foreign Ministry.

It would be Abe and Moon's first formal talks since September last year when they met in New York. The two also briefly spoke in early November on the fringes of a regional conference in Bangkok.

Motegi and Kang, who were both in the central Japan city of Nagoya for a gathering of the Group of 20 major economies, discussed South Korea's decision regarding the General Security of Military Intelligence Agreement, or GSOMIA, the ministry said.

It added they agreed on the importance of trilateral cooperation with the United States to deal with threats from North Korea, a point Motegi reaffirmed with U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan in separate talks.

Hours before GSOMIA had been set to expire at midnight Friday, Seoul announced that it was suspending the decision made in August to terminate the pact in response to Japan's tightening of controls on exports of some materials for the chipmaking industry and its removal of South Korea from a list of trusted trade partners.

During the 35-minute meeting, Kang welcomed the start of discussions between their countries' trade officials, while calling on Japan to withdraw the tightened controls immediately, according to Yonhap News Agency.

Motegi, meanwhile, raised the issue of South Korean top court rulings ordering Japanese companies to compensate plaintiffs for forced labor during Japan's 1910 to 1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula, urging Seoul to abide by a 1965 bilateral agreement under which Japan argues such claims were settled, the ministry said.

The court has said the right of victims of forced mobilization under Japan's "illegal" colonial rule to seek compensation was not terminated by the accord.

Kang said there was still a considerable gap between the stances of South Korea and Japan, and that she agreed with Motegi on the need to continue dialogue, Yonhap reported.

Motegi warned that if the plaintiffs in the cases are allowed to liquidate the seized assets of the Japanese companies, bilateral relations would be in an "even more difficult situation," the ministry said.

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