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Japan-South Korea rift

Tokyo, Seoul resume in-person talks, both asking other side to act

First meeting in eight months covers wartime labor and export restrictions

Japan and South Korea recently reopened business travel between the two countries despite ongoing tensions.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- Japan urged South Korea to offer a resolution "acceptable to the Japanese side" on a long-running case involving wartime labor, as the two countries on Thursday held their first face-to-face meeting of senior diplomats since February.

The dispute, which has soured bilateral relations, dominated the talks between Shigeki Takizaki, director-general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of Japan's foreign ministry, and South Korean counterpart Kim Jung-han.

Friday will mark two years since South Korea's Supreme Court ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal, now Nippon Steel, to pay plaintiffs seeking compensation for being forced work at the company's precursor during World War II. A South Korean court has taken steps toward liquidating assets seized from the steelmaker.

Takizaki told Kim that such a liquidation could "lead to an extremely grave situation and must be avoided at all costs," according to Japan's foreign ministry.

Shigeki Takizaki, director-general for Asian affairs at Japan's Foreign Ministry, visited Seoul on Thursday.   © Yonhap/Kyodo

The Japanese side indicated that unless progress is made on this issue, it will be difficult for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to visit South Korea for a trilateral summit including China that Seoul seeks to hold this year.

In his policy speech to parliament on Monday, Suga said that to "restore healthy Japan-South Korea relations," Tokyo would "strongly urge an appropriate response" from Seoul, based on Japan's "consistent stance."

Takizaki and Kim confirmed that diplomatic officials on both sides will remain in communication on the issue.

Meanwhile, Seoul pressed Tokyo to ease restrictions imposed last year on exports of chipmaking materials to South Korea. Japan has denied that the restrictions came in response to the forced labor row.

Takizaki also met with Lee Do-hoon, South Korea's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, to discuss the latest developments regarding North Korea.

Takizaki visited South Korea under an agreement implemented this month allowing short-term business trips between the two countries if travelers test negative for the coronavirus and provide an itinerary to authorities.

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