BEIJING/TOKYO -- Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono and his South Korean counterpart, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, on Wednesday had a bilateral meeting on the outskirts of Beijing, but the two countries could not make any significant progress to settle issues related to wartime labor and export controls.
The most controversial item on the meeting's agenda was related to a recent judgement by South Korea's Supreme Court, which ordered Japanese companies to pay compensation for laborers forced to work during World War II. Relations between Tokyo and Seoul have sunk to their lowest point in years, following a series of South Korean court decisions.
Kono argues that the wartime labor issue is South Korea's responsibility and he called on Seoul to take immediate measures to correct the current situation, which Japan considers a violation of international law.
Meanwhile, the two countries agreed to maintain dialogue to resolve the issue.
"Even in such a difficult situation, I think we can work toward a solution by having these very close discussions," Kono said after the meeting.
Seoul, meanwhile, has criticized Tokyo's decision to tighten trade controls on South Korea, saying the measures are retaliation and go against the spirit of free trade. Kang asked Japan to remove its export restrictions.
Kono maintained that the matter should be left in the hands of each country's office of export administration, saying, "(Japan's) Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is open to talk if it fulfills certain conditions." Kono also expressed his concerns over rising anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea.
The South Korean government declined to offer information about the extension of a bilateral intelligence-sharing pact called the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which will expire Aug. 24.