• Kyodo

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Final arrangements are underway for former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in Seoul as early as Friday, when he visits the country, sources said Wednesday.

The meeting comes at a time when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is seeking to hold direct talks with Park, in a bid to improve bilateral ties that have soured over history-related issues, including differing perceptions of Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and the “comfort women” issue.

Abe, who has yet to hold a one-on-one summit meeting with Park, has indicated he hopes to hold talks with her on the sidelines of an annual leaders’ meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in November, in Beijing.

In a related move, the Japanese and South Korean foreign ministries plan to hold a vice minister-level “strategic dialogue” on Oct. 1 in Tokyo, according to sources familiar with Japan-South Korean relations.

The dialogue, which would be the first such talks since Park took office in February last year, would likely bring together Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki and Cho Tae-yong, South Korea’s first vice foreign minister.

Mori, who heads the organizing committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, will attend the opening ceremony of the Asian Games starting on Friday in the South Korean city of Incheon.

The South Korean side has approached Mori over a possible meeting between him and Park on that occasion, the sources said. Mori is known to have connections in South Korean political circles.

The Mori-Park meeting is expected to be held at the presidential Blue House, with the former prime minister accompanied by Ambassador to South Korea Koro Bessho. There is a possibility that Mori may hand a personal message from Abe to the president, the sources added.

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