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Japanese prime minister meets with Seoul's spy agency chief

Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with Seoul's spy chief on Tuesday. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga met with Seoul's spy chief on Tuesday. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 10 (UPI) -- South Korea and Japan could be moving toward improving ties amid a transition in the United States following Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's declaration of victory on Saturday.

Seoul's head of national intelligence Park Jie-won met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday to discuss ways to ameliorate ties that have declined due to trade and historical disputes, South Korean newspaper Donga Ilbo reported.

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Park is South Korea's highest-ranking official to visit the Japanese leader since Suga assumed office in September. The two sides could be planning for a Suga visit to Seoul, according to the report.

South Korean government sources who spoke to the Donga said Moon and Suga both "possess a strong will to normalize relations between Korea and Japan."

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Park has already met with members of Japan's ruling party. On Monday, Park met with senior Japanese officials to address the issue of compensation for Korean victims of forced wartime labor. Tokyo and Seoul also discussed plans for North Korea participation at next year's rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, according to the Donga.

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Last week, Suga expressed interest in inviting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to the Summer Games, describing a potential visit as a "good opportunity." The prime minister has said he is willing to meet with Kim without conditions as Tokyo pursues the resolution of the abduction issue.

Seoul and Tokyo are in agreement on engaging North Korea, but the two countries have been at odds over a South Korean Supreme Court ruling ordering Japan's Nippon Steel to pay compensation to plaintiffs in a forced wartime labor case.

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Suga has said South Korea, a "very important neighbor," must resolve the issue to return to a "healthy Japan-Korea relationship." Tokyo has said all colonial-era compensation claims were settled with the signing of the 1965 Korea-Japan normalization treaty.

Korea and Japan could also be stepping up diplomatic efforts ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. A Biden administration could be more vocal about improving Seoul-Tokyo ties, according to Yonhap's analysis.

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