A senior South Korean official expressed “understanding and cooperation” for Japan’s latest effort to get closure on North Korea’s abductions of Japanese nationals.
First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae Yong made the comments Wednesday during talks with Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki in Tokyo, the Foreign Ministry said. It gave no further details about the South Korean side’s message of support.
Saiki is believed to have spoken with Seoul about Japan’s dispatch of a delegation to the North to assess Pyongyang’s progress on its promise to reinvestigate what happened to Japanese listed as abducted or missing.
It was the first strategic dialogue held at the vice minster level since South Korean President Park Geun Hye took office in February last year.
Saiki and Cho reaffirmed bilateral ties as well as the trilateral framework set up with the United States to prod North Korea into renouncing its nuclear and missile programs, the ministry said in a statement.
The vice ministers exchanged views on affairs in Asia, the Middle East and the crisis in Ukraine, and pledged joint efforts to ensure peace, stability and economic prosperity in the region and the wider international community, the ministry said.
“The security environment around the two countries has become increasingly uncertain and severe,” Saiki told the meeting, part of which was open to the media.
Saiki was apparently referring to North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs as well as China’s growing territorial ambitions and military buildup.
Cho called for the stable development of Tokyo-Seoul ties based on a “correct” perception of history, and mutual understanding and trust to promote forward-looking bilateral relations.
Japanese officials hope the dialogue will pave the way for a summit between Park and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, possibly on the sidelines of the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Beijing in November.
Relations have been strained over differing assessments of Japan’s attitude toward its wartime responsibility for the “comfort women,” predominantly Korean women who were forced into wartime brothels for the Imperial Japanese military. The issue has prevented Abe and Park from holding one-on-one talks since taking office.