December 24, 2015 / 9:24 AM / 2 years ago

Japan minister heads to Korea to try to resolve 'comfort women' issue

TOKYO/SEOUL (Reuters) - Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is heading to South Korea this month to seek a resolution on the “comfort women” issue, public broadcaster NHK reported on Thursday.

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, who retained his post after a cabinet shuffle, arrives at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's official residence in Tokyo, Japan, October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Yuya Shino

South Korea’s ties with Japan have long been strained by what Seoul sees as Japanese leaders’ reluctance to atone for the country’s brutal wartime past, including a full recognition of its role in forcing Korean girls and women to work in Japanese military brothels.

But ties have warmed since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met South Korean President Park Geun-hye last month.

In the first formal talks between the two leaders since both took office, Abe and Park agreed to speed up negotiations to resolve the issue.

A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman told Reuters he could not immediately comment on the NHK report.

At a media forum on Wednesday, South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said negotiators were doing their utmost to resolve the issue in the not so distant future.

“We are investing a lot of time to come up with our kind of resolution that the victims can accept and the international community can understand,” he said.

The report of Kishida’s visit comes after South Korean court last week cleared a Japanese journalist of defaming Park in a case that had threatened to inflame relations between the uneasy neighbors.

Reporting by William Mallard, Kaori Kaneko, Linda Sieg, Kiyoshi Takenaka in TOKYO, Jack Kim in SEOUL; Editing by Nick Macfie

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