Prime Minister Shinzo Abe asked South Korean President Park Geun-hye for a summit meeting in a letter handed over on Friday, seeking a breakthrough in bilateral ties frozen by disagreements over Japan's wartime past, including the "comfort women" issue.

Abe, in a letter handed to Park by former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori during a visit to Seoul, mentioned the 50th anniversary of the neighbors' diplomatic ties next year and said he hoped for efforts by both sides to improve relations.

"Prime Minister Abe said in the letter . . . that he eagerly hoped to be able to meet on the occasion of an international conference to be held this fall," Park's office said in a statement.