• Kyodo

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Japan and South Korea are preparing to hold a vice minister-level “strategic dialogue” possibly in early September in Tokyo, a senior Japanese Foreign Ministry official said on Wednesday.

If realized, they would be the first such talks since South Korean President Park Geun-hye took office in February of last year.

The dialogue is expected to bring together Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki and Cho Tae Yong, South Korea’s first vice foreign minister.

The two sides are expected to discuss North Korea’s nuclear and missile development programs, Japan-North Korea negotiations for the return of Japanese abductees, China’s rising territorial ambitions and military buildup, as well as Japan’s and South Korea’s policies toward the United States as it pursues a strategic rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region.

Japanese officials hope the dialogue will pave the way for a summit between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Park.

Since returning to power in December 2012, Abe has yet to hold one-on-one talks with Park amid strained bilateral ties over a territorial dispute and differing perceptions of wartime history.

According to sources familiar with the two countries’ relations, Seoul has proposed holding a strategic dialogue with Tokyo in early September.

The two governments will set the date of the meeting through diplomatic channels.

In a meeting on Aug. 9 in Myanmar, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung Se agreed to continue talks at various levels as part of efforts to improve bilateral ties.

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