SEOUL – Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki held fence-mending talks Thursday with his South Korean counterpart, Kim Kyou-hyun, in Seoul, amid bilateral relations strained over a territorial dispute and divergent perceptions of history.
“I had talks (with Kim) in an extremely friendly atmosphere and had a constructive exchange of opinions,” Saiki told reporters after the meeting.
Saiki, who arrived in the South Korean capital for a two-day visit earlier Thursday, is set to meet with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Friday to discuss bilateral ties as well as issues relating to North Korea.
South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said Saiki is visiting Seoul to have an informal “get-to-know-you meeting” with Kim, after having taken office recently.
The talks come after Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Yun met July 1 on the sidelines of a regional security forum in Brunei and agreed to repair ties.
Bilateral relations, already tense due to a dispute over a pair of South Korea-held islets in the Sea of Japan, known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, have been dealt a further blow by Japanese politicians’ recent remarks on historical issues and visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine for the war dead and Class-A war criminals.
Earlier Thursday, Yun indicated a cautious stance on holding a summit between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe amid the current strains.
In a meeting with senior South Korean journalists, Yun said that at present, a feeling of trust is elusive due to “words and actions running counter to history” by some Japanese political leaders.
On Wednesday, Park urged Japan to make efforts to create an atmosphere under which she could hold a summit with Abe.
“Japan has done things hurting our people’s scars, like the (row over) Dokdo and the ‘comfort women,’ and an atmosphere should be created (for a summit with Abe) to move on in a ‘future-oriented’ manner,” Park told reporters, referring to Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of females for the military. Many of the victims were from the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.