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Japan, S. Korea officials to meet in Guam this week amid tensions

The national flags of Japan and South Korea are pictured in this file photo. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan and South Korea are planning to send senior officials to Guam later this week to discuss ways to de-escalate a dispute over trade and wartime history, diplomatic sources said Wednesday.

The talks, expected to take place on Friday and Saturday, are being arranged in an "unofficial" capacity without a formal announcement. The neutral setting was chosen to avoid drawing a heated public response from either side, the sources said.

Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba will represent Japan, while South Korea's delegation will be led by First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei Young.

Tokyo is expected to repeat calls for Seoul to prevent Japanese companies from incurring losses following South Korean court decisions ordering compensation for people who claimed they were victims of forced labor during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have seized the assets of the companies, including Nippon Steel Corp. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., and are trying to liquidate them, a process that is expected to take several months.

Japan is seeking a solution before then, though it has already rejected an offer South Korea made in June to establish a fund to compensate the plaintiffs with contributions from both Japanese and South Korean companies.

Tokyo argues the issue of compensation was settled by a 1965 bilateral accord under which it provided $500 million in financial aid to the South Korean government.

The talks in Guam will be held after the anniversary on Thursday of Japan's surrender in World War II, celebrated in South Korea as Liberation Day.

The senior diplomats may also discuss tighter export controls that the countries have recently imposed against each other, as well as a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact that may be at risk because of the worsening ties.

A decision on whether to extend the General Security of Military Information Agreement is due on Aug. 24. South Korea has recently suggested it may pull out of the pact, which enables the countries to share information about North Korean missile threats.

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