S. Korea, Japan vow to step up joint efforts to rein in N. Korea

By Catherine Chung
  • Published : Aug 8, 2017 - 09:44
  • Updated : Aug 8, 2017 - 09:44
MANILA -- Top diplomats from South Korea and Japan expressed hopes Monday to increase cooperation in fending off their common threat of North Korea.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, also agreed to make efforts to improve national ties, including resuming their leaders' summit. But they failed to narrow differences over the longtime dispute over Japan's wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women.

"In the face of North Korea's increasingly sophisticated nuclear and missile threats, more frequent communications regarding the problem will be very helpful," Kang said at the start of her first bilateral talks with Kono in Manila on the sidelines of a key regional security forum.

They were in the Philippines to attend a series of meetings involving the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their Asia-Pacific dialogue partners, including the ASEAN Regional Forum.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (L), poses for a photo with Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono (2nd from L), Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano (2nd from R), and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (R) in Manila on Aug. 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

"Though there are difficult problems between the two countries, I hope to move forward to resolve them by communicating frequently, gathering wisdom and consulting with each other," she added.

Kono called South Korea Japan's "most important neighbor that shares strategic interest."

"I hope the two countries will cooperate in a broad range of areas and build a new era of Japan-Korea ties," he said.

He also emphasized the need to enhance joint efforts among the two countries and the United States over North Korea.

Earlier in the day, they held a three-way meeting involving US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and promised to cooperate to ensure full implementation of new United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

As for the dispute over sexual slavery, the two ministers remained poles apart, only reaffirming their differences, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

Kono called on Seoul to implement a 2015 bilateral deal involving Japan's contribution to a fund for the victims, while Kang said the arrangement is unacceptable to most Koreans.

Seoul is reviewing the agreement, which came under fire at home for lacking Japan's official apology and acknowledgment of legal responsibility for the forceful mobilization of Korean women to army brothels during World War II.

They agreed to visit each other's countries and arrange a summit between their national leaders to be held this year. according to the ministry. (Yonhap)