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Japan urges S. Korea to 'act prudently' on intel-sharing pact

Kim Jung Han, center, director general of the South Korean Foreign Ministry's Asian and Pacific Affairs Bureau, is surrounded by reporters after holding talks with his Japanese counterpart Shigeki Takizaki at the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo on Nov. 15, 2019. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan pushed South Korea on Friday to rethink its decision to terminate a bilateral military intelligence-sharing pact that helps the two Asian neighbors deal with missile threats from North Korea.

In a meeting in Tokyo, senior Japanese and South Korean officials failed to make significant progress toward resolving a feud sparked by a disagreement over wartime compensation that has led bilateral ties to sink to the worst level in years.

Shigeki Takizaki, the Japanese Foreign Ministry's director general of the Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, called on South Korea to "act prudently" regarding the General Security of Military Information Agreement, which is set to expire on Nov. 23, the ministry said.

Seoul's decision to pull out of the 2016 pact, made in response to Japan's tightening of trade controls on South Korea, has alarmed the United States.

Wary of security cooperation between its main allies in Asia being undermined, Washington has sent several senior officials to Seoul, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper this week, to push for the pact to be maintained.

Seoul has maintained that the decision could be reconsidered if Japan reversed its tightening of export controls on South Korea implemented in July.

Takizaki held talks with Kim Jung Han, the South Korean Foreign Ministry's director general for Asian and Pacific affairs. The pair last met on Oct. 16 in Seoul.

The Japanese Foreign Ministry said Friday's meeting was just shy of two and a half hours, the bulk of which was spent discussing the issue of wartime labor.

Bilateral relations dived sharply following rulings by South Korea's top court last year ordering Japanese companies to compensate Koreans forced to work in their factories during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Japan argues that the question of compensation was resolved by a 1965 bilateral treaty that established bilateral diplomatic ties, and that the court rulings contravene international law.

Takizaki reiterated Japan's stance that South Korea must "immediately correct" the situation.

There was no discussion of Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi meeting with his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung Wha on the sidelines of a meeting of Group of 20 major economies next week in Nagoya because Kang's attendance has yet to be announced, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said.

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