Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki will visit Seoul on Wednesday to meet his Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yong.
It will be the first meeting of its kind in eight months and the first high-level meeting between the two sides since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe angered neighbors by visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, which honors convicted war criminals among the country's fallen.
The talks come ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Korea and Japan in April and will allow Seoul to gauge Tokyo's commitment to a campaign of resurgent chauvinism and denial of its past atrocities.
Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se at the UN last week lambasted Japan's attempts to whitewash its World War II atrocities. On Monday, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in a partial climbdown told reporters the Abe administration does not intend to revise a 1993 statement by his predecessor Yohei Kono admitting imperial Japan's wartime atrocities. Seoul hopes Saiki could bring more news along the same lines.
"Japan asked for the meeting, and we accepted since it gives the two vice foreign ministers a chance to meet for the first time," a government official said. Cho was appointed last month. "But there can be no radical improvement in bilateral relations unless Japan truly repents its past atrocities."