Japan, S.Korea bureau chiefs to meet on Thursday

A senior South Korean foreign ministry official is visiting Japan for bureau chief-level talks on outstanding bilateral issues.

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong revealed at a news conference on Wednesday that the director general for Asian and Pacific affairs, Lee Sang-ryol, left for Tokyo earlier in the day.

Ministry officials say Lee is scheduled to meet the head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Funakoshi Takehiro, on Thursday.

The last in-person bilateral bureau chief-level talks were held in Seoul last October. The meeting will also be the first since US President Joe Biden took office.

Chung also expressed willingness to meet his Japanese counterpart Motegi Toshimitsu at the earliest opportunity.

However, Chung vowed to respond firmly to what he called Japan's distortion of history and territorial claims, referring to the Japanese education ministry's recent approval of adjustments in high school textbooks.

Chung also said he upholds the South Korean Supreme Court's ruling on wartime labor, and said the issue of those referred to as comfort women would be 99 percent resolved if Japan regrets its actions and offers a sincere apology.

The South Korean government is seeking compensation for those referred to as comfort women from the Japanese government. But Japan maintains that all issues of reparations were settled in 1965 when the two countries normalized relations.

The Japanese government also says any right to claims for wartime labor was settled completely and finally in 1965.