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(LEAD) Moon urges Japan to look 'squarely' at history for improved ties with S. Korea

2018/02/09 17:08

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(ATTN: UPDATES with more details, additional background from 4th para)

SEOUL, Feb. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday expressed hope to form what he called "true friendship" with Japan but said Japan must first look squarely at the countries' shared history.

In a bilateral summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Moon called for efforts to enable a future-oriented relationship between the two countries.

"I sincerely hope the two countries can be true friends that can communicate with heart. As I have repeatedly said before, I plan to work with the prime minister to enable future-oriented cooperation while looking squarely at history," Moon said, according to pool reports.

The bilateral summit, the third of its kind since Moon took office in May last year, came hours before the two leaders were set to attend the opening of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, located 180 kilometers east of Seoul. The Moon-Abe summit was held in Yongpyeong, just east of PyeongChang.

The South Korean president also expressed his willingness to resume what is commonly known as shuttle diplomacy, under which the leaders of South Korea and Japan paid frequent visits to each other for bilateral talks. Such visits have been suspended since late 2015 when the countries signed a controversial agreement to settle Japan's sexual slavery of Korean women during World War II.

Seoul's former conservative administration under the ousted former President Park Geun-hye agreed to settle the issue "finally and irreversibly" in exchange for 10 billion Japanese yen (US$9.16 million).

Moon has said his administration cannot accept the agreement, though it will not seek its renegotiation.