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Japan FM plans Korea visit to to resolve wartime issues

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Japanese FM Fumio Kishida (C) answers questions after a cabinet meeting in Tokyo, December 25, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida plans to visit South Korea in an effort to improve relations amid diplomatic mistrust between the two Asia-Pacific countries.

Kishida said at a press briefing in Tokyo on Friday that he was arranging a visit to Seoul as early as Monday.

The Japanese foreign minister has hoped for an early resolution of a long-running dispute with Seoul over “comfort women,” who were forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels.

“I’m ready to rack my brains, do my utmost and sweat,” Kishida told reporters, adding, “We have been trying to realize the agreement… to accelerate talks and seek an early settlement. This is part of this effort.”

Local media reports earlier said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had instructed Kishida to go to Seoul for ministerial talks.

Shinzo wants to resolve a range of issues regarding Tokyo’s brutal behavior during its colonization of the Korean Peninsula in the first half of the last century, they said.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye (C), Japanese PM Shinzo Abe (L) and Chinese PM Li Keqiang walk to a meeting room at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, November 1, 2015. (Photo by AFP)

Japan occupied large parts of China and the Korean Peninsula during World War II.

South Korea’s relations with Japan have long been strained over memories of the brutal wartime history. Senior authorities in Seoul emphasize that Tokyo has yet to properly atone for its past actions.

Japan and South Korea are also at odds over sovereignty on a pair of islands called Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese in the Sea of Japan.

Seoul, which controls the islands since the end of the Japanese colonial rule after World War II, considers Japan’s claims as stemming from its colonial past.

Bilateral ties, however, have warmed since Premier Abe met South Korean President Park Geun-hye last month in Seoul.