• Kyodo

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Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda called Friday for dialogue between Japan and South Korea to improve soured relations mainly over history-related issues.

“We must overcome the bad image proliferating among the people of both countries and deepen mutual understanding,” Fukuda said at a joint meeting of the two countries’ bilateral cooperation committees in Seoul.

“Calm and restrained responses are called for, and so it is important to promote dialogue,” he said, adding the proposed East Asian community cannot be realized unless Japan, South Korea and China share mutual understanding and have close relations.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sent a message to the meeting, saying he hopes to advance Japan-South Korea ties with a future orientation and work on overcoming outstanding issues as well as seek common interests between the two sides.

“It is a fact that there is still awkwardness between the two countries over the past,” Koizumi said. “Dialogue and exchanges between the people of the two countries are extremely important, and the clash of views on just some of the issues should not spoil the advancement of overall ties.”

The cooperation committees of Japan and South Korea are made up of lawmakers, business leaders and academics of the two countries.

Fukuda, a Lower House lawmaker of the Liberal Democratic Party who is acting director of the Japanese committee, attended the event along with former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone, who chairs the body.

Much of the tension between the two countries stems from Koizumi’s yearly visits to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan’s war dead, as well as convicted war criminals.

Yasukuni optional

Japan would allow South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun to decide whether to visit Yasukuni Shrine’s contentious war museum if he came to Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe said Friday.

He was responding to Roh’s comments made Thursday in Seoul that he wanted to visit the museum “if the Japanese side approves.”