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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 September 2006, 04:25 GMT 05:25 UK
Japan and S Korea agree to talks
Japan's new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe
Mr Abe's election has brought hope of improved ties
The leaders of Japan and South Korea have agreed to meet soon, in a bid to repair their countries' strained ties.

Japan's new Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, and South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun arranged the plan in a telephone discussion, the two nations confirmed.

Mr Roh refused to meet former Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi, in protest at his visits to a controversial shrine.

Mr Abe's election has brought the hope of a rapprochement with Seoul, and perhaps also with Beijing.

YASUKUNI SHRINE
Built in 1869 to honour victims of the Boshin Civil War
Now venerates the souls of 2.5m of Japan's war dead
Those enshrined include 14 war criminals

Both South Korea and China are displeased with Japan over a number of issues, especially the continuing visits made by Japanese officials to the Yasukuni shrine, which honours several war criminals alongside other war dead.

The two countries say the shrine glorifies Japan's past militarism, particularly during World War II.

Mr Koizumi made six official visits to the shrine during his term as prime minister, but Mr Abe has so far refused to comment on whether he will continue such trips.

Co-operation

"It is extremely important to develop forward-looking co-operation between Japan and South Korea. I hope to meet you at an early date," Mr Abe told Mr Roh during their telephone conversation, according to Japanese spokesman Hiroshige Seko.

South Korea's presidential spokesman, Yoon Tae-Young, confirmed the conversation, saying: "The two leaders have agreed to meet at an appropriate time."

It is not immediately clear when or where the two leaders will get together.

Japanese officials say one possibility could be on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation forum (Apec) in mid-November in Vietnam.

Mr Abe is also keen to hold talks with China, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said on Wednesday.


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