• Kyodo

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Japan and South Korea agreed Thursday to work toward a bilateral summit and to discuss the issue of women forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels, Japanese officials said.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that he and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se “reaffirmed the importance of continuing and enhancing communication at a high political level.”

But Kishida stopped short of saying how far apart Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye remain on scheduling a one-on-one meeting on the sidelines of international events they will attend in November, such as the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

Meanwhile, Kishida and Chinese counterpart Wang Yi also held talks Thursday evening in New York and discussed “issues between the countries,” Kishida said, declining to go into further details.

Kishida and Yun agreed that their governments will continue to talk about the issue of women from the Korean Peninsula who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II, said a Japanese official. Japan ruled the peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Tokyo-Seoul ties have been strained due mainly to disputes over differing views on war-related history, including the issue of women euphemistically called “comfort women” in Japan.

Kishida told Yun the Japanese government has no intention of reviewing a 1993 formal apology for the comfort women issue in a statement released by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, Kishida said.

Kishida asked Yun to deal with lawsuits for damages filed in South Korea by laborers conscripted to work for Japanese companies during the war, based on the fact that individual compensation claims were all resolved when both countries normalized ties in 1965.

Kishida also asked South Korea to ease import restrictions on Japanese fishery products following the 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the official said.

Abe and Park met in a trilateral meeting brokered by U.S. President Barack Obama in March in The Hague, but the Japanese and South Korean leaders have yet to meet for formal one-on-one talks since they took office in 2012 and 2013, respectively.

Last week in Seoul, former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori handed Park a letter from Abe conveying his willingness to meet bilaterally taking advantage of upcoming international events.

Japan also claims the pair of South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.

Japan and China’s meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly came as Japan is calling on China to hold a first summit between Abe and President Xi Jinping amid strained ties over territory and views on history.

“We compared notes on Japan-China relations and issues between us. I feel we were able to take our time exchanging opinions in a candid and sincere manner,” Kishida told reporters.

But Kishida declined to elaborate when asked if they talked about the likelihood of a summit between Abe and Xi on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Beijing on Nov. 10 and 11.

“Nothing has been decided about a Japan-China summit,” Kishida said.

He and Wang also met in Myanmar last month.

Tensions between Tokyo and Beijing have risen over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, which Japan controls but China claims. China calls the uninhabited islets Diaoyu.

China was also angered by Abe’s visit last year to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which honors convicted Class-A World War II criminals among the nation’s war dead.

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