Moon, Abe talk on phone for fourth time

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Moon, Abe talk on phone for fourth time

The leaders of South Korea and Japan on Friday agreed on the need to continue sanctions and pressure on North Korea but to settle the nuclear issue ultimately through peaceful means, Seoul’s presidential office said.

During a telephone conversation, President Moon Jae-in and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also agreed to ensure close consultation between the two countries and the United States over shaping the “right” conditions for dialogue with the North Korean regime.

“The two leaders agreed to cooperate with the international community through close South Korea-Japan cooperation, and South Korea-U.S.-Japan cooperation for the complete dismantlement (of the North’s nuclear and missile programs),” Park Soo-hyun, the presidential spokesman, told reporters.

The 30-minute conversation, the fourth of its kind, came amid signs of de-escalation of tensions spiked by Pyongyang’s long-range missile tests last month and recent exchange of belligerent rhetoric with Washington.

After Pyongyang delayed its threat to fire a salvo of missiles towards the U.S. territory of Guam, Washington officials noted its apparent show of restraint and alluded to their willingness to open dialogue.

Touching on bilateral ties, Moon and Abe committed to moving forward the Seoul-Tokyo relationship in a future-oriented way while taking care of historically thorny issues including South Korean victims forced into hard labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.

Regarding the forced labor issue, Moon told a press conference last week that victims’ individual rights to claim compensation still remain valid despite Tokyo’s argument that all issues were settled under a 1965 treaty between the two governments.

Abe noted Japan’s public concerns about Moon’s remarks. Moon, in response, explained that he cited Korea’s Supreme Court ruling that the victims’ rights to demand compensation from private Japanese firms remains unaffected by the treaty.

“Moon made the remarks to express his desire for the issue to not pose any stumbling blocks to the development of the two countries’ future-oriented relationship,” a presidential aide told reporters, declining to be named.

The leaders also agreed to hold talks on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum to be held in Russia’s Far East port city of Vladivostok next month.

The phone conversation came as Seoul and Washington conduct joint military exercises, which Pyongyang castigated as a rehearsal for an invasion. It also coincided with the Day of Songun, a holiday in the North to mark the beginning of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s military-first policy in 1960. Yonhap
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