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    Japan, South Korea Leaders Seek Reset in First Call This Year

    Abstract:The leaders of South Korea and Japan reaffirmed the importance of strong ties, in an ice-breaking phone call after Yoshihide Suga‘s ascension to the prime minister’s job last week in Tokyo.

      The leaders of South Korea and Japan reaffirmed the importance of strong ties, in an ice-breaking phone call after Yoshihide Suga‘s ascension to the prime minister’s job last week in Tokyo.

      The call between Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-In provided an opportunity for the two neighbors to rebuild trust after a long-simmering feud over historical issues boiled over into a trade war last year. The conversation was the first of its kind since Sugas predecessor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, met Moon in China in December.

      Speaking to reporters afterward, Suga said he told Moon that ties were in a difficult state, but couldnt be neglected. The two countries needed to cooperate with one another and with the U.S. to tackle issues of shared concern including North Korea, he added.

      “Japan and South Korea are extremely important neighbors for one another,” said Suga, who was installed as prime minister on Sept. 16 after poor health forced Abe to step down. The South Korean side requested the conversation, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said.

      Moon described Japan as South Koreas “closest friend,” with which it shares basic values and strategic interests, according to a statement by presidential spokesman Kang Min-seok in Seoul. The two agreed to improve communication to resolve their problems, Kang said.

      Ties between the two Asian neighbors dipped to new lows last year after Japan removed South Korea from its “white list” of trusted export destinations and curbed exports of several items vital to production in the country‘s high-tech manufacturing industry. The moves came after a series of South Korean court rulings demanding Japanese companies compensate Korean workers forced into working at factories and mines during Japan’s 1910-45 occupation of the peninsula.

      Why Japan‘s Feud With South Korea Isn’t Going Away: QuickTake

      Kato later told a briefing that it would be a serious problem if South Korean courts liquidated the assets of Japanese firms in the country to settle the compensation cases. Japan has maintained that all claims were settled “completely and finally” under a 1965 treaty that set up basic relations.

      {15}

      The disputes led to street protests in Seoul, where anti-Abe signs were often held aloft. South Korea moved to cancel a intelligence-sharing pact with Japan brokered by the U.S., only to withdraw the threat after Abe agreed to open discussions on their trade dispute.

      {15}

      Suga, who made few forays into diplomacy when he served as Abe‘s right-hand man, hasn’t yet attracted the same type of animosity as his hawkish boss. He told Moon that Japan wanted South Korea to deal with the various problems in a suitable way, based on a consistent stance.

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