Despite an agreement here Monday between Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda and new South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to build a “new era” — indicating bilateral ties could get steadily back on track and even be raised to a higher level — the two leaders did not engage in candid discussions over their differences in key policy issues.

Apparently focusing on producing an amicable atmosphere during their meeting, which marked the start of Lee’s diplomacy following his inauguration the same day, Fukuda and Lee left unclear how far they can coordinate policies in dealing with Pyongyang and work together in overcoming historical and territorial rows.

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