(Yonhap Interview) Seoul-Tokyo cooperation critical to dealing with N.K.: ambassador
TOKYO, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- Cooperation between South Korea and Japan will be important in dealing with uncertainties arising from North Korea's leadership change, Seoul's top envoy to Tokyo said Monday, as Kim Jong-un consolidates power in the communist regime.
South Korea and Japan share common interests in maintaining peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, leading to mutual exchanges of information regarding the North and joint responses to related issues, Ambassador Shin Kak-soo said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
"(Such cooperation) has helped us significantly to pull the situation on the Korean Peninsula in the intended direction," he said. "Cooperation between South Korea and Japan has great significance going forward as we deal with the fluid, uncertain and unstable situation in North Korea."
The ambassador stressed that bilateral cooperation must continue within that context, while in the short term, the two sides must work to ensure progress in international efforts to denuclearize the North.
South Korea and Japan are members of the so-called "six-party talks," which aim to dismantle North Korea's nuclear weapons program in exchange for economic and political aid. The forum also includes China, Russia and the United States, but has been stalled for three years due to a North Korean boycott, and later, demands by Washington and Seoul that Pyongyang halt its uranium enrichment program before the talks resume.
On South Korea's relations with Japan, Shin said the two sides must work toward finding a solution to the issue of compensation for Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japan's World War II military.
The issue has long been a thorn in relations between the countries as Tokyo refuses to provide individual compensation to the "comfort women," claiming the matter was settled in a 1965 treaty. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945.
"The issue of 'comfort women' remains the most symbolic, and so our task this year is to actively work toward solving it," the ambassador said. "We will try to solve the issue through close cooperation with the Japanese government, and in this manner, pursue a relationship of the 21st century in which both sides win and cooperate."