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Japan, South Korea seek to deepen economic ties after ‘comfort women’ deal

Kyodo

Japan and South Korea discussed economic cooperation in high-level talks Tuesday amid a thaw in bilateral relations since a landmark deal was reached last month to help resolve a long-standing dispute over the “comfort women” procured for Japan’s wartime military brothels.

Yasumasa Nagamine, deputy minister in charge of economic affairs at the Foreign Ministry, told reporters that his talks with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs Lee Tae-ho were held as bilateral relations have entered a “new era.”

During their five-hour meeting, the officials discussed South Korea’s import ban on Japanese fishery products imposed after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Nagamine said. The World Trade Organization has set up a panel to rule on the matter.

Japan has been arguing that the ban violates international trade rules and has no scientific basis. South Korea, meanwhile, says its trade restrictions are legitimate measures to ensure food safety for its people amid radioactive water leaks at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The officials also exchanged views on free trade arrangements as both Japan and South Korea are involved in negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership trade pact with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations as well as China, Australia, New Zealand and India.

In the landmark deal struck on Dec. 28, Japan and South Korea agreed to resolve the comfort women issue “finally and irreversibly.”

Tuesday’s meeting was the 14th high-level economic talks between the two countries.