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Foreign Minister Kang visits Tokyo this week

Dec 18,2017
Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha will head to Tokyo for two days on Tuesday, her first trip there since she took her post, where she will have talks with her Japanese counterpart, Taro Kono, to discuss pending bilateral issues and North Korea.

Japanese Foreign Minister Kono invited Kang to Tokyo during their bilateral talks on the sidelines of an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional forum in August, and several times afterward through various channels, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here Sunday.

The two ministers also met on the sidelines of a UN General Assembly meeting in late September and have held frequent phone conversations.

The ministry added that the foreign minister’s meeting is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, and the two ministers will exchange views on bilateral relations, North Korea and the nuclear issue and other areas of mutual interest.

Kang’s visit over Tuesday and Wednesday marks the first trip by a Korean foreign minister to Japan in two and a half years, since then-Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se visited Tokyo in June 2015.

The bilateral meeting comes amid heightened security concerns in the region following North Korea’s launch of its latest Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) at the end of last month.

But the two countries also have pending historical issues, especially as the South Korean Foreign Ministry launched a task force to review a bilateral agreement under the previous government aimed at resolving the issue of the Japanese military’s wartime sexual slavery of young women and girls during World War II.

Kang is expected to carry out a two-track approach, separating security and economic cooperation with historical disputes. The two countries’ foreign ministries struck a deal on Dec. 28, 2015, aimed to resolve the comfort women issue, which included an apology by the Japanese government and a 1 billion yen ($8.88 million) fund for the victims.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]