• Kyodo

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Japanese and South Korean lawmakers agreed Monday to closely cooperate bilaterally, and also with the United States, toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the head of the Lower House said.

“We shared the view that North Korea’s nuclear and missile issue is extremely urgent and that denuclearization (of North Korea) is a common strategic goal between Japan and South Korea,” Lower House Speaker Tadamori Oshima told a news conference after the gathering in Seoul.

Oshima is leading a nonpartisan delegation of nine Japanese lawmakers for talks with 16 South Korean counterparts, including National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun, in Seoul.

But the two sides did not completely agree regarding how to realize the goal, according to Oshima.

The conference on “future dialogue” between the South Korean and Japanese assemblies followed a formal meeting over the weekend between a high-ranking North Korean delegation and President Moon Jae-in.

Most of the Japanese participants said it is necessary to force Pyongyang to give up its nuclear weapons development by pressure, rather than “dialogue for the sake of dialogue,” Oshima said.

Meanwhile, some South Korean members asked their Japanese counterparts to understand that what is happening between the two Koreas is not dialogue for the sake of dialogue, but rather “dialogue toward denuclearization,” he added.

After the gathering, Oshima met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon. The two expressed their support for the goal of denuclearization of the peninsula and also took up the thorny bilateral issue of “comfort women” — who were forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during World War II.

Tokyo and Seoul have recently been at odds over the matter after Moon’s administration expressed hopes for a fresh apology from Japan despite a 2015 bilateral agreement aimed at settling the issue “finally and irreversibly.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Moon repeated their claims and failed to find common ground during their summit Friday ahead of the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

Abe urged Seoul to implement the agreement, but Moon reiterated that the deal would not resolve the issue as long as it is difficult for the victims and the Korean people to accept it.

Oshima quoted Lee as saying South Korea will not ask Japan to do more and that it is important to implement what was agreed between the countries.

The Japanese lawmakers, who are on a three-day trip to South Korea that began Saturday, watched an ice hockey match and figure skating by Japanese athletes in the Winter Olympics. The games run through Feb. 25.

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