0136 GMT January 23, 2020
The decision to return to the table came a day after Seoul made a last-minute move to stick to an intelligence-sharing deal with Japan. Seoul on Saturday hailed its own move as a “breakthrough” after months of worsening relations, Reuters reported.
Yet neither side gave any sign of a fundamental shift in stance, meaning that their feud will likely remain as intractable as it has been for the half century since the two US allies normalized ties.
The feud is rooted in a decades-old disagreement over compensation for South Korean laborers forced to work at Japanese firms during World War Two. Seoul has seized local assets of Japanese companies and Tokyo this year curbed exports of materials used to make semiconductors.
“We bought time for intense discussions, but there’s not much time left for us,” South Korea’s Foreign Minister, Kang Kyung-wha, told reporters.
She was speaking after meeting her Japanese counterpart, Toshimitsu Motegi, at a gathering of the Group of 20 (G20) foreign ministers in the central Japanese city of Nagoya.
Motegi had earlier said that he wanted to discuss the issue frankly.
“I aim to hold a candid exchange of views on the matter of laborers from the Korean peninsula, which is the core problem, and other bilateral issues,” Motegi told reporters in Nagoya.
Tokyo has been frustrated by what it calls a lack of action by Seoul after a top South Korean court ordered Japanese company Nippon Steel to compensate former forced laborers. Japan says the issue of forced labor was fully settled in 1965 when the two countries restored diplomatic ties.
South Korea’s Kang acknowledged that “the gap was very big” between the two countries over the issue of forced labor.
Japan’s Motegi told Kang that bilateral ties would further worsen if Korea decided to liquidate previously seized assets of some Japanese companies, a Japanese official said.