Visiting U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Monday on the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea to engage in a dialogue "in a forward-looking manner" and lay the foundation for peace and reconciliation in the region.

Speaking at the outset of a symposium at United Nations University in Tokyo, Ban said Northeast Asia holds the key to promoting cooperation in the 21st century, which is often referred to as "the era of Asia and the Pacific."

"The United Nations have been engaging in a number of regional cooperative mechanisms, but Northeast Asia still remains a missing link," Ban told the audience. "I sincerely hope that the dialogue between countries in the region, in particular, Japan, China and the Republic of Korea, will proceed in a forward-looking manner."