Japan ex-PM to meet S Korean leader to mend ties

AFP, TOKYO

Sun, Oct 07, 2012 - Page 4

Former Japanese prime minister Taro Aso is planning to meet South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in a bid to mend ties soured by a territorial dispute, reports said yesterday.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul were badly damaged in August when Lee made a surprise visit to islands known in Korean as Dokdo, which lie between the two countries. Japan claims the islands as Takeshima.

Aso, of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), is to visit Seoul from today to attend a two-day conference of the Japan-Korea Cooperation Committee, which includes parliamentarians and business leaders, Kyodo News and Jiji Press said, citing unnamed political sources. He is planning to meet Lee tomorrow.

The reports came as Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said on Friday Tokyo has protested to Seoul over South Korea’s invitation of a group of foreign media to the disputed islands “as it is irrelevant to our country’s position.”

The two nations have long been at odds over Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of Korea, and they had been working to repair relations in recent years.

Before ties took a dive, Japan and South Korea were on the verge of signing a landmark intelligence-sharing pact. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Lee held informal talks last month on the sidelines of the APEC forum.

The visit by Aso, who is close to LDP leader and former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, is believed to be aimed at boosting the opposition party’s profile before a general election expected as early as later this year, Kyodo said.

Aso was prime minister from September 2008 to September 2009.

Japan is also locked in a separate dispute with China and Taiwan over Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.