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S. Korea, U.S. to discuss N. Korean, territorial issues
SEOUL, Oct. 16 (Yonhap) -- The number two diplomats of South Korea and the United States will hold talks on Tuesday in Seoul to discuss regional security concerns including North Korean issues and territorial rows in Northeast Asia, foreign ministry officials here said Tuesday.

   During their strategic dialogue, Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young and Deputy Secretary William J. Burns will explore ways to maintain security on the Korean Peninsula, with an emphasis on keeping North Korea in check ahead of both countries' presidential elections, the officials said.

   Last week, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the allies always discuss "efforts to try to get North Korea to show some new movement and new commitment in the context of the proposals that the six parties have made," referring to the member states of the now-suspended talks on Pyongyang's nuclear program -- the two Koreas, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.

   Burns arrived in Seoul on Monday after a two-day trip to Tokyo. He will also visit China, Burma and India during his Asian swing, according to the department.

   Conflicts between Seoul and Tokyo over territorial and historical issues will be an agenda item as well, according to the Seoul officials.

   Tension has run high between the two neighbors in recent months following South Korean President Lee Myung-bak's unprecedented visit to the country's easternmost islets of Dokdo in mid-August, which Japan has also laid claim to.

   South Korea regained independence after the 1910 to 1945 Japanese colonial rule and reclaimed sovereignty over its territory. Japan's territorial claim to Dokdo is viewed by Koreans as a sign Tokyo has not fully repented for its imperialist past.

   The two countries are also at odds over the issue of "comfort women," as Japan has persistently refused to apologize or offer compensation for the wartime coercion.

   Up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were forced to become sex slaves, colloquially known as comfort women, at Japanese military brothels during World War II, according to historians. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule at that time.

   After his meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba on Monday, Burns said, "What the U.S. government supports is an approach that is focused on dialogue," according to a transcript of his remarks released by his department.

   The vice minister-level talks between Seoul and Washington began in 2006 as part of the allies' efforts to strengthen cooperation on a broader spectrum of issues with mid-to-long term perspectives, according to Seoul's foreign ministry.

   graceoh@yna.co.kr
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