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Park eyeing positive ties with Japan: Abe’s envoy

Kyodo

South Korean President-elect Park Geun Hye on Friday told Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s special envoy, Fukushiro Nukaga, that her country wants to build good ties with Japan while not neglecting lingering historical issues.

His meeting with Park comes as Japan and South Korea — both under new leadership — appear keen to mend diplomatic ties that have deteriorated badly since departing President Lee Myung Bak’s unprecedented visit to the South Korean-controlled Takeshima Islands in August. The rocky outcroppings in the Sea of Japan are administered by South Korea’s North Gyeongsang Province and called Dokdo.

Park, set to take office in February, was quoted by Nukaga as saying that she wants to re-establish conciliatory and cooperative ties between the two sides at the same time as they face up to the past, an apparent reference to a host of historical issues that have plagued bilateral relations since Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Nukaga also conveyed to Park the intentions of Abe, who took the government helm in late December, to reset ties and get them back on a solid track under their new administrations. The envoy further urged Park to visit Japan as soon as her schedule allows, to which she responded positively.

Nukaga, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and secretary general of a Japan-South Korea lawmakers’ friendship association, arrived in Seoul in the morning to present Park with a letter from Abe. Two senior members of the bilateral association, LDP lawmakers Takeo Kawamura and Ichiro Aisawa, also attended the meeting with Park.

The Japanese delegation was slated to hold talks later with South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Kim Sung Hwan.

“I want to convey the prime minister’s thoughts that Japan’s relations with South Korea are of primary importance for the stability of East Asia,” Nukaga, a former finance minister, told reporters earlier. “I’d like to act as a bridge to make this year a good one for both of our countries.”

Their visit was greeted by a gruesome protest by one South Korean man, who stabbed himself in the abdomen with a knife before the envoy had touched down at Seoul’s Gimpo International Airport, local authorities reported.

The man is believed to be Kim Chang Geun, 62, the same individual who rammed his truck into the gate of the Japanese Embassy last July to protest Japan’s sovereignty claim to the Takeshima Islands. He was hospitalized but his condition was not immediately known, they said, adding four others took part in the protest.