Top diplomats of S. Korea, Japan hold talks in Spain

December 16, 2019

 The top diplomats of South Korea and Japan held one-on-one talks on the sidelines of a multilateral meeting in Spain on Sunday (Spain time) and discussed key bilateral issues related to the ongoing row over trade and wartime history, Seoul’s foreign ministry said.

During the 10-minute talks, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told her Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, that South Korea welcomes the meeting that trade officials of the two countries plan to hold in Tokyo on Monday (Seoul time) to discuss Tokyo’s export curbs.

Kang said she hopes the talks will lead to Japan retracting the export restrictions.

Sunday’s brief meeting took place in Madrid on the margins of a banquet dinner held for the foreign ministers attending a meeting of the Asia-Europe Meeting forum (ASEM). Earlier, officials had said Kang and Motegi weren’t likely to meet due to scheduling problems.

The two ministers agreed to continue coordination for a possible summit that President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could hold in the southwestern Chinese city of Chengdu next week on the margins of a trilateral summit also involving Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (L) holds talks with her Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, in Nagoya, Japan, on the sidelines of a foreign ministers' meeting of G-20 countries on Nov. 23, 2019. (Yonhap)

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (L) holds talks with her Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, in Nagoya, Japan, on the sidelines of a foreign ministers’ meeting of G-20 countries on Nov. 23, 2019. (Yonhap)

Should the summit take place, Moon and Abe are expected to discuss ways to improve relations between the two countries that have frayed badly since Tokyo slapped export restrictions against South Korea in connection with a row over wartime forced labor.

In response, Seoul decided in August to terminate a military information-sharing pact with Japan, known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA). But the South reversed the decision at the last minute and decided to conditionally renew it last month.

The two sides have since resumed working-level talks to explore ways to resolve their trade row.

During Sunday’s talks, the two sides also discussed the latest development on North Korea’s nuclear issue and agreed to maintain close consultations with each other on the issue.

Kang and Motegi last met in Nagoya on the sidelines of a foreign ministerial meeting of the Group of 20 nations on Nov. 23, one day after Seoul announced its decision on GSOMIA.

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