October 13, 2019 / 9:21 AM / 2 months ago

UPDATE 1-S.Korean PM set for highest-level visit to Japan next week since export curbs

(Updates with announcement from prime minister’s office)

By Hyonhee Shin

SEOUL, Oct 13 (Reuters) - South Korea’s prime minister plans to visit Japan next week in what would be the highest-level trip since Japan imposed export curbs in a deepening trade and diplomatic row, officials said on Sunday.

Lee Nak-yon, whose trip is scheduled for Oct. 22-24, will attend Japanese Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement ceremony, Lee’s office said in a statement.

Lee is expected to take part in a banquet hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday, and hold separate talks with him, which would mark the highest-level dialogue since tension flared up last year over the issue of Japan’s wartime use of South Korean forced labour, officials said.

“We hope his visit would help, as both sides share understanding that we continue dialogue to improve relations,” a government official said on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the ties.

Relations between the neighbours are arguably at their lowest ebb since they normalised ties in 1965, after South Korea’s Supreme Court last year ordered two Japanese companies to compensate some wartime labourers.

Japan says the issue was settled under a 1965 treaty that normalised ties.

The dispute has since spilled over into trade and security, with Japan slapping export curbs and South Korea scrapping a bilateral intelligence-sharing pact.

Abe and Lee, a former journalist with a stint as Japan correspondent, have built a rapport since their days as politicians and last met during an international forum in Russia in September 2018. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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