Demonstrating the recent improvement in their bilateral relationship, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye have agreed to jointly condemn North Korea’s latest nuclear test.

During a 15-minute telephone conversation on Thursday evening, the leaders agreed that their recent agreement to settle the wartime “comfort women” issue had enabled them to quickly and closely work together to respond to Pyongyang’s latest bomb test, according to a senior Japanese official who briefed reporters in Tokyo.

On Dec. 28, the two countries reached a deal to “finally and irreversibly” settle the long-standing dispute over the comfort women, who were forced to provide sex to soldiers at Imperial Japanese military brothels before and during the war. Japan agreed to provide ¥1 billion for a South Korean fund to be set up for the survivors.

“Thanks to this agreement, the top leaders of Japan and South Korea now can directly talk to discuss an important topic like this,” Park was quoted as saying by the Japanese official.

Park also told Abe that she wanted to make 2016 “the starting year of a new age” for South Korea and Japan, to which Abe agreed, the official said.
During the teleconference, Abe said the global community should send “a strong message” to North Korea by taking “firm actions.”

Japan would help prevent Pyongyang from taking more “provocative actions,” Abe was quoted as saying.

In response, Park said the United Nations Security Council should act decisively and said she expected much from Japan’s latest stint as a nonpermanent member of the council, according to the Japanese official.

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