World / Politics

Japan, South Korea to resume security dialogue this month

Kyodo

Japan and South Korea have broadly agreed to resume a long-suspended security dialogue later this month on the current status of the Korean Peninsula and wider East Asian region, bilateral diplomatic sources said.

The dialogue, involving senior foreign affairs and defense officials, has not been held since December 2009 due to deteriorating bilateral ties over and a territorial dispute and historical issues, including “comfort women” recruited to work in wartime brothels for the Imperial military during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the peninsula.

Foreign ministers of both nations agreed at a meeting in Seoul last month to hold the dialogue at the earliest convenience, the sources said Saturday.

Despite the chilled ties between Tokyo and Seoul, both sides judged “it necessary to first hold the security consultations that build trust” before attending to other issues in the face of North Korea’s nuclear development, one of the sources said.

The planned dialogue will focus on how Japan and South Korea view the current situation in East Asia and how close their views are.

Junichi Ihara, director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry, and his South Korean counterpart, Lee Sang-deok, director general of Seoul’s Northeast Asian Affairs Bureau, are likely to attend the talks.

Seoul wants Tokyo to explain the planned revision on April 27 of defense cooperation guidelines between Japan and the United States, the sources said.

By briefing South Korea on the outline of the revision, Japan hopes to ease concerns over the security policies of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government, the sources said.

Regarding North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, which will be one of the major topics at the meeting, Tokyo is seen urging Seoul to closely communicate matters related to Pyongyang, based on a trilateral memorandum of understanding with Washington on sharing and safeguarding classified information.

Tokyo is also seeking information about the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system the United States is considering introducing in South Korea to counter North Korean threats.

In a separate move, Japan and China held their first bilateral security dialogue in four years on March 19 in Tokyo and agreed to continue the talks.