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Abe says summit with Moon being arranged in China in late Dec.

This combined file photo shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday he is arranging to meet with South Korean President Moon Jae In in China later this month, adding to signs that Tokyo and Seoul are seeking to stem a further worsening of ties.

Besides a short conversation in early November on the fringes of a multilateral gathering in Thailand, Abe and Moon have not held formal talks for more than a year, reflecting severely strained ties over compensation for wartime labor, trade and security issues.

The summit is expected to take place when Abe visits China from Dec. 23 to 25 for this year's trilateral summit meeting in Chengdu with Moon and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Japan and South Korea averted the termination last month of a military intelligence-sharing pact as Seoul backpedaled on its earlier decision to scrap the agreement at the last minute.

Eyes are on whether Abe and Moon can set the stage for repairing ties, more than a year after South Korean court orders for Japanese companies to pay compensation for wartime forced labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.

The Asian neighbors remain at loggerheads as Japan maintains that the issue of compensation for wartime labor was already settled under a 1965 bilateral accord that established their ties, with Tokyo providing $500 million lump sum to Seoul as "economic cooperation."

Seoul says its hands are tied because of the separation of powers.

Tokyo has been urging Seoul to follow through on the bilateral accord and the idea has emerged in South Korea to set up through legislation a foundation worth 300 billion won ($255 million) consisting of donations from companies and individuals in both countries.

On the trade front, Japan and South Korea have agreed to hold talks at the director general level in mid-December over Tokyo's move earlier this year to tighten controls on tech-related exports.

Abe unveiled his plan to visit China during a meeting of government officials and ruling coalition lawmakers at the prime minister's office on Tuesday.

Prior to China, he will also travel to India from Dec. 15 to 17 for a summit with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Abe is expected to seek enhanced cooperation in achieving a "free and open" Indo-Pacific as the two countries have been deepening economic, diplomatic and security ties.

Japan and India are making arrangements for the signing of an acquisition and cross-servicing agreement that will enable them to share defense capabilities and supplies including fuel and ammunition.

Abe may also visit the northeastern India city of Imphal, the site of a fierce battle between Japanese and Allied forces during World War II.

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