Seoul, Tokyo hold first security talks since 2009

Lee Sang-Deok (2nd Right), director-general of Northeast Asian affairs at the South Korean Foreign Ministry, shakes hands with his Japanese counterpart Junichi Ihara (2nd Left), director-general of Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau at the Japanese Foreign Ministry, as Park Cheol-Kyun (Far Right), deputy director general for International Policy at the South Korean Defence Ministry, and Atsuo Suzuki (Far Left), a deputy director general at Japanese Defence Ministry, pose before their security talks in Seoul on April 14, 2015.

Senior officials of South Korea and Japan held their first security policy talks since 2009 in Seoul on Tuesday, as part of efforts to move their relationship forward amid escalating historical and territorial feuds.

The meeting involving two senior foreign affairs and defence officials from each side came as Seoul felt the need to continue co-operation with Tokyo in "mutually beneficial areas" despite the spats over history and Japan's claim to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.

The talks were led by Lee Sang-deok, director general of Northeast Asian affairs at Seoul's Foreign Ministry, and Junichi Ihara, director general for Asian and Oceanian affairs at Tokyo's Foreign Ministry.

Brig. Gen. Park Chul-kyun, director general for international policy at Seoul's Defence Ministry and Atsuo Suzuki, deputy director general of the Defence Policy Bureau of Tokyo's Defence Ministry also participated.

The talks, which first began in 1998, have not been held since December 2009 due to bilateral conflicts over history and Dokdo.

At the talks, Japanese officials were expected to explain the ongoing revision of the US-Japan defence co-operation guidelines. Seoul has said that the revision work should proceed in a transparent way and in a direction that contributes to peace and stability.

Washington and Tokyo have been working to amend the 1997 guidelines to stipulate joint procedures to handle a series of the emerging security challenges possibly including Chinese threats. First adopted in 1978 to counter Soviet threats, the guidelines were last amended in 1997 to reflect post-Cold War security threats.

The US and Japan are expected to reach an agreement on the revision of the guidelines when their defence and foreign ministers meet at the so-called two-plus-two meeting to be held in Washington on April 27.

Seoul officials were expected to express their concerns over Tokyo's repeated claim to the Dokdo islets and its apparent attempt to whitewash its wartime atrocities. The bilateral relationship has been deteriorating as Japan has continued to reinforce its claim to Dokdo in its government policy papers and misrepresent the negative side of its history in school textbooks.

Seoul officials were also expected to touch on the need for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to present his sincerity in addressing historical issues during his speech to a joint session of the US Congress on April 29.

The two sides also discussed North Korea's escalating nuclear and missile threats and explored ways to enhance co-operation to counter the threats. Some observers said that the officials could also discuss the possibility of holding bilateral talks between the defence ministers of the two countries during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore next month.