South Korean, Japanese leaders meet to try to improve troubled ties
South Korean president Lee Myung Bak agreed to improve sometimes difficult relations with Japan during a summit Wednesday with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, dpa reported.
The relationship between the neighbours has been troubled by issues including trade, conflicting territorial claims, Japan's colonial rule of Korea and the Japanese military's treatment of Korean sex slaves during World War II.
"It is important to move towards the future without forgetting the past," Lee said.
Lee said he agreed with Noda, who arrived in Seoul Tuesday for a two-day visit, to cooperate to resume talks to sign a free trade deal that has been stalled since 2004.
"Also, we agreed that we will increase support closer business ties in the key sectors like electronic components and materials," Lee added.
Japan has requested a resumption of the talks that stalled primarily because of Seoul's concern on the trade deficit with Japan and Seoul's unmet demand for further opening of Japan's farm sector.
Japan is a major source of electronic components for South Korean companies, and is a major market for South Korean farms and food companies.
Lee asked Japan to make efforts to mend ties over sovereignty and historical issues that have strained relations.
Noda returned five volumes of ancient royal documents that Japan took during its 1910-1945 colonial rule of Korea. They were some of the 1,205 volumes that his predecessor, Naoto Kan, promised to return to South Korea before December 10.
Seoul has also asked Tokyo to start bilateral talks on compensating Korean women who were forced into sexual slaves for the Japanese military during World War II.
Japan has said it considers the issue resolved by a 1965 treaty that normalized diplomatic ties between the two countries.
The two countries have competing claims to islands in the Sea of Japan.
Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to cooperate more closely in their joint efforts to end North Korea's nuclear program.