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(LEAD) S. Korea, Japan to hold first high-level talks since Abe's inauguration
SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) - Senior diplomats from South Korea and Japan will meet in Tokyo this week to discuss bilateral issues, marking their first meeting since the conservative government of Japan's Shinzo Abe was launched, Seoul officials said.

   The one-day Vice-Ministerial Strategic Dialogue meeting, set for Thursday in Tokyo, will be led by South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Ahn Ho-young and his Japanese counterpart Chikao Kawai, ministry officials said.

   Abe sent his special envoy to speak with South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye last week in an effort to mend strained relations between the two nations. Park is set to take office next month.

   "The Strategic Dialogue will offer a change for the two sides to exchange views on how the new governments in the two nations work together to promote bilateral ties," a senior ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.

   Relations between South Korea and Japan have been strained since outgoing President Lee Myung-bak made a visit to the islets of Dokdo last August, the first by a South Korean president, and Japan strongly protested the move and renewed its claim to the East Sea islets.

   Dokdo, which lies closer to South Korea in the body of water between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, has long been a thorn in relations between the two countries. South Korea keeps a small police detachment on the islets, effectively controlling them.

   Park said the launching of new governments in South Korea and Japan will mark a "good starting point" in bilateral ties, but analysts said she will take a firm response if Abe provokes South Korea again over territorial and history-related issues.

   kdh@yna.co.kr
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