NEW YORK -- Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak sidestepped their differences on history and sovereignty over a group of islands, and instead agreed to pursue future-oriented ties on Sept. 21.
The two leaders, who met for 25 minutes at a New York hotel on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, agreed to closely cooperate from a broad perspective and work with the United States to deal with North Korean issues. They also agreed on the need to reopen negotiations for an economic partnership agreement and promote dialogue by revitalizing shuttle diplomacy under which the leaders and foreign ministers would regularly visit each other's countries.
According to Japanese Foreign Ministry officials, Noda and Lee did acknowledge that the two countries occasionally face difficult problems on diplomatic relations. But they did not go further on the topic.
A South Korean foreign ministry spokesman said on Sept. 20 in Seoul that in his meeting with Noda, Lee "certainly plans" to raise the issue of Japanese compensation for Korean "comfort women" forced to provide sexual services for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
But Lee refrained from discussing the thorny subject because it was his first meeting with the new Japanese prime minister, South Korean government sources said.
Lee also did not bring up Noda's remark that Japanese Class-A war criminals in World War II were not war criminals. The remark drew anger from South Korea and China.
In addition, the two leaders did not address the territorial dispute over the Takeshima islets, called Dokdo in Korean, the Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said.
(This article was compiled reports by Hajime Horiguchi and Tetsuya Hakoda.)
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