Moon, Abe back dialogue to resolve South Korea-Japan dispute: South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in walks past Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the 22nd ASEAN Plus Three Summit in Bangkok, Thailand, November 4, 2019. Yonhap via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in on Monday suggested high-level talks to resolve a deepening political and trade row with Japan during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Moon’s spokeswoman said.

The two leaders held an 11-minute discussion on the sidelines of a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bangkok, the spokeswoman, Ko Min-jung, said in a statement.

“Both leaders reaffirmed the principle that bilateral issues should be resolved through dialogue,” Ko said, referring to ongoing working-level talks between the two countries’ foreign ministries.

“President Moon offered higher-level talks if necessary, and Prime Minister Abe suggested seeking a resolution through all available means.”

The meeting comes as bilateral ties have plunged to their lowest in decades after South Korea’s top court last year ordered Japanese firms to compensate some wartime forced laborers.

As the feud spilled over into trade and security issues, Moon and Abe have not held a summit for more than a year, though they shook hands at a Group of 20 leaders’ meeting in Japan in June.

Moon sent Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon to Tokyo last month for Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony with a personal letter calling for efforts to mend ties.

But there has been little sign of progress, as Abe said the issue of wartime forced labor was settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized relations following Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Christian Schmollinger

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