Nov. 16 (UPI) -- South Korea and Japan could be in the early stages of a landmark deal that addresses the issue of forced wartime laborers following a two-year standoff.
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and South Korean President Moon Jae-in have arrived at a preliminary agreement to "compensate" Korean laborers forcibly recruited to work for little to no pay during World War II at Japanese factories and coal mines, South Korea's Yonhap TV reported Monday.
Tokyo and Seoul have begun to take more concrete steps toward resuming high-level communications. Senior level diplomats recently met in Seoul, and South Korean lawmakers traveled to Tokyo to meet with Suga on Friday. South Korean spy chief Park Jie-won also met with the Japanese prime minister last week.
Moon, who was unable to strike a deal with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, drew attention in South Korea on Saturday, when during an ASEAN+3 summit he addressed only Suga by name.
"In particular, it's a pleasure to meet you, Prime Minister Suga of Japan," Moon said, according the presidential Blue House.
The two leaders may share common interests. According to Yonhap TV, Moon is keen to resume inter-Korea dialogue, and Suga has said he would not rule out inviting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to next year's rescheduled 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The two governments could be working on a major deal to restart diplomacy using next year's Summer Games as an opportunity, the report says.
Japan's Olympic prospects are brightening after the head of the International Olympic Committee said he is "very confident" spectators can attend the Games, Japan's Jiji Press reported Monday.
North Korea has shown little interest in dialogue with Japan. Tokyo has said resolving the issue of Japanese abductees taken to the North is of the highest priority, but Pyongyang has said all kidnapped victims were returned in 2002.