• Kyodo

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Foreign Minister Taro Aso and his South Korean counterpart Song Min Soon agreed Sunday that officials from the two countries will hold talks June 17 and 18 in Seoul aimed at demarcating their exclusive economic zones in the Sea of Japan to prevent future maritime conflicts, a Japanese official said.

The meeting, held on South Korea’s Jeju Island on the sidelines of a trilateral meeting with their Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, comes after Tokyo issued a protest Thursday to Seoul over a South Korean marine research vessel’s activities in Japan’s EEZ.

The Japanese briefer downplayed the incident, saying, “It was not taken up again during this foreign ministerial meeting as Japan had already issued a protest to the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo.”

In April 2006, Tokyo and Seoul became embroiled in a dispute over conducting a marine survey around a pair of South Korean-administered islets in the Sea of Japan.

The islets, claimed by both countries, are known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

The two sides subsequently averted a confrontation via a vice ministerial meeting in Seoul, where they reached a compromise in which Japan agreed to withdraw its plan to conduct the survey. Creating an advance notification system was then brought up as a means of resolving the standoff.

The EEZ talks in Seoul will likely include discussions on the prior notification system.

During the trilateral meeting, the foreign ministers of Japan, South Korea and China agreed on the need for North Korea to promptly implement the initial steps toward its denuclearization and reaffirmed cooperation on a wide range of issues, including climate change, the Japanese official said.

It was the first time foreign ministers from the three neighboring countries have met independently and not on the sidelines of a multilateral meeting.

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