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South Korean foreign minister in Japan to discuss nuclear standoff, strained relations

South Korean foreign minister in Japan to discuss nuclear standoff, strained relations

South Korea's new foreign minister, in Japan on a fence-mending visit, agreed to seek an early resumption of the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program at talks Tuesday, officials and a news report said.
Song Min-soon arrived in Japan on Tuesday to discuss the deadlock over North Korea's nuclear programs and to mend strained bilateral ties on his first overseas visit since becoming Seoul's top diplomat in early December.
Song met with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki late Tuesday, according to the Foreign Ministry. At the meeting, the two agreed to seek an early resumption of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program, Kyodo News agency reported, citing an unnamed government official.
An official at the Prime Minister's office, where Shiozaki is based, said he did not know of discussion details. He refused to be named, citing protocol.
Song was slated to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Taro Aso on Wednesday, according to the Foreign Ministry.
Song's trip comes after six-nation talks on curbing the North's nuclear ambitions failed last week in Beijing.
North Korea pledged last year to give up its nuclear weapons program in exchange for security guarantees and aid, but later boycotted negotiations to protest U.S. financial restrictions placed on North Korean bank deposits over alleged financial crimes.
During Song's trip to Japan, the two sides are also expected to discuss steps to mend strained ties, including a possible visit by South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun to Japan for the first time since June 2003, according to South Korea's Foreign Ministry.
Bilateral ties have been frayed by territorial and historical disputes, including a row over former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's repeated visits to a war shrine that honors Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals.
The visits angered many on the Korean peninsula, which Japan ruled as a colony in 1910-45.
The frosty relations began to thaw, however, after Abe made a fence-mending trip to Seoul in October, less than a month after taking office.
Song, Seoul's former top nuclear envoy, succeeded Ban Ki-moon, who will become the secretary-general of the United Nations in January.


Updated : 2021-04-23 23:36 GMT+08:00