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(LEAD) Nuke envoys of S. Korea, Japan meet to discuss N.K. issue, bilateral ties

2018/01/08 11:51

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(ATTN: ADDS updated info on Lee's trip to U.S. in 8th para)

SEOUL, Jan. 8 (Yonhap) -- The top nuclear envoys of South Korea and Japan met Monday to discuss North Korea's nuclear program and bilateral ties ahead of the upcoming inter-Korean talks on Pyongyang's possible participation in the Winter Olympics in the South.

The meeting was held in Seoul between Lee Do-hoon, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, and his Japanese counterpart, Kenji Kanasugi.

The Japanese envoy didn't make any comments on his way to the meeting, the details of which were not disclosed to the press.

The meeting came a day before high-ranking officials of the two Koreas will sit down in the truce village of Panmunjom to discuss the North's possible participation in the Feb. 9-25 PyeongChang Olympic Games.

As the two Koreas move toward talks, which will be the first of their kind in around two years, South Korea has apparently stepped up diplomatic coordination with its partner countries in dealing with the current nuclear stalemate.

On Thursday, Lee spoke by telephone with his U.S. and Japanese partners to share information about the current security situation on the Korean Peninsula.

He also held a face-to-face meeting in Seoul late Friday with his Chinese counterpart, Kong Xuanyou, to discuss the North's nuclear program.

A ministry official said that Lee is to visit the United States Wednesday for a three-day trip during which he plans to meet with his U.S. counterpart Joseph Yun for discussion on the results of the inter-Korean talks and possible follow-up measures.

Later in the day, Kanasugi, who also handles Asian affairs, will hold a meeting with Kim Yong-kil, who leads the foreign ministry's bureau in charge of Northeast Asian affairs, to discuss issues of mutual concern.

In particular, they are expected to exchange views on Seoul's follow-up steps after a government task force recently concluded that a controversial 2015 deal over Japan's wartime sexual slavery of Korean women failed to make sufficient efforts to listen to victims. President Moon Jae-in said the deal is "gravely flawed."

   South Korea and Japan reached the deal on Dec. 28, 2015, agreeing to "finally and irreversibly" resolve the comfort women issue, while Tokyo apologized for its colonial-era atrocities and agreed to contribute 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) to a foundation dedicated to supporting the victims.

The deal, however, prompted strong criticism from victims and civic groups, which claim that Japan's apology was not sincere enough and that the government did not consult with them in advance. Some call for renegotiating or even scrapping the deal.

kokobj@yna.co.kr

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