Japan Ex-PM 'to Meet S.Korean Leader to 'Mend Ties'

Former Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso is planning to meet South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak in a bid to mend ties soured by a territorial dispute, according to a report.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul were badly damaged in August when Lee made a surprise visit to the Dokdo islands, which lie between the two countries. Japan claims them as the Takeshima islands.

Aso, of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, will visit Seoul from Sunday to attend a two-day conference of the Japan-Korea Cooperation Committee, which includes parliamentarians and business leaders, Kyodo News said on Saturday, citing unnamed political sources. He is planning to meet Lee on Monday.

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and Lee held informal talks last month on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

The two nations have long been at odds over Japan's 1910-1945 occupation of Korea, and they had been working to repair relations in recent years.

Before ties took a dive, Japan and South Korea were on the verge of signing a landmark intelligence-sharing pact.

The visit by Aso, who is close to LDP leader Shinzo Abe, is believed to be aimed at boosting the opposition party's profile before a general election expected as early as later this year, Kyodo said.

Aso was prime minister from September 2008 to September 2009.

Japan is also locked in a separate dispute with China over Tokyo-controlled islands in the East China Sea.

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