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Abe briefs envoy on value of Tokyo-Seoul ties

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed on Tuesday his special envoy, Fukushiro Nukaga, to tell South Korean President-elect Park Geun Hye that Japan sees its relations with South Korea as extremely vital.

Nukaga told reporters that he was asked by Abe to convey his message to his South Korean counterpart that “South Korea is Japan’s most important neighboring country.”

Diplomatic ties between Tokyo and Seoul have deteriorated following the visit in August last year by Park’s predecessor, Lee Myung Bak, to the Takeshima Islands, known as Dokdo in South Korea. It was the first time a South Korean president had visited the South Korea-controlled islands in the Sea of Japan.

“I would like to pave the way in rebuilding strained ties through diplomacy between lawmakers,” Nukaga said to journalists after meeting Abe at the premier’s residence in Tokyo.

Using the occasion of a change in the administrations for both nations, Nukaga, former finance minister and secretary general of the Japan-South Korea lawmakers’ league will visit Park on Jan. 4 and present her with a letter from Abe.

Abe was quoted as saying he wants to make a good start over relations with South Korea, noting that the two countries share values such as democracy.

Abe, who became prime minister last month after his Liberal Democratic Party returned to power following the Dec. 16 lower house election, did not mention the Takeshima issue during the meeting, Nukaga said.