South Korea’s Foreign Ministry announced Thursday that an official handling Asia-Pacific affairs will visit Japan to meet his counterpart amid mounting tensions between the two countries.
Kim Jung-han, director general for Asian and Pacific Affairs at Seoul’s Foreign Ministry, will meet Shigeki Takizaki to discuss matters of mutual interest, the ministry said in a press release.
This is Kim’s first one-on-one meeting with Takizaki, who replaced Kenji Kanasugi as head of Japan’s Foreign Ministry’s Southeast and Southwest Asian affairs department.
Their meeting comes after Seoul removed Japan from its whitelist of trusted export partners on Wednesday and filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization against Tokyo’s export curbs on Sept. 11.
The ministry has stressed that it will maintain diplomatic dialogue with Japan despite the fierce trade dispute. The row was ignited by Tokyo’s July decision to slap stricter export restrictions against Korean firms in apparent reprisal for Seoul’s handling of historical issues related to Japan’s colonization of Korea from 1910-45.
Kim and Takizaki are expected to discuss the possibility of talks between Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her new Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, during the UN General Assembly in New York next week.
In August, Kang met Taro Kono, Japan’s former foreign minister, in hopes of mending the strained ties but failed to do so when both reiterated their respective stances.
President Moon Jae-in, who will also attend the UN General Assembly, is unlikely to hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, given that Japan was not included in the Cheong Wa Dae briefing on the list of countries with which bilateral summits are planned during the president’s five-day visit to the US.
Meanwhile, a top US official said Wednesday that the country is actively engaged in efforts to resolve the current trade and historical row between Korea and Japan, and will continue to encourage both sides to find “positive solutions.”
David Stilwell, assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said he had spent a “considerable” amount of time on the issue in his 2 1/2 months in office.
“We are actively engaged. Because that activity may not be visible publicly, it doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” he said, citing a trilateral meeting between the top diplomats of Korea, the US and Japan in Bangkok last month.
“These alliances are very important, and the trilateral nature of that sends a very strong message to the region,” he continued.
“I will tell you that we will continue to work and encourage both to look for positive solutions to this current issue.”
By Park Han-na and news reports