August 14, 2019 09:45
Korea and Japan have agreed to hold talks after Liberation Day and are fine-tuning the agenda in an escalating who-blinks-first standoff over historical and trade issues.
A diplomatic source in Seoul said Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young will meet his Japanese counterpart Takeo Akiba "to discuss areas of conflict," including Japan's export restrictions and compensations for wartime forced labor victims.
The two officials are expected to meet in a third country, probably the U.S. territory of Guam.
Cho made an unofficial visit to Japan in June to propose solving the compensation problem by setting up a fund with money from Korean and Japanese businesses, but Tokyo rejected the offer.
The two vice ministers will now try to hammer out a new solution and find ways of lifting recent tit-for-tat export curbs that threaten vital supply chains in high-tech industries.
Japan is expected to call on Korea to halt the seizure of Korean assets of Japanese businesses that have refused to comply with Korean court orders to compensate their wartime slave laborers.
But a diplomatic source said, "Both sides remain miles apart so the upcoming vice-ministerial talks should be interpreted as an intent to continue dialogue." President Moon Jae-in earlier said "diplomatic efforts will continue" to find a solution.
The government wants to keep diplomatic channels open but continue to publicize the unfairness of Japan's trade restrictions. Seoul still plans to send senior officials to the U.S., Europe and other major countries to drum up support.
The government wants to be prepared in case Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe raises the bilateral spat at the G7 Summit in Biarritz, France late next week, where Korea is not a member.
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