Singapore, Jun 4 (IANS): South Korea and Japan agreed on Sunday to craft measures to prevent the recurrence of a yearslong military dispute, involving their maritime operations, Seoul's defence chief said, in the latest effort to improve bilateral relations.
After his talks with his Japanese counterpart, Yasukazu Hamada, in Singapore, Defence Minister Lee Jong-sup said the two sides will hold working-level talks to address the issue -- still a lingering irritant in bilateral defence cooperation, Yonhap news agency reported.
The dispute flared up in December 2018, when a Japanese maritime patrol aircraft made an unusually low-altitude flyby over a South Korean warship. Seoul has decried the plane's approach as a "menacing" flight, while Tokyo has accused the South Korean vessel of having locked its fire-control radar on the plane.
"Regarding the issue, (we) agreed to resolve it by starting working-level talks and placing a focus on coming up with measures to prevent its recurrence," Lee said.
The two countries' positions on the issue remain unchanged, but they agreed to focus on formulating measures to prevent such an incident from happening again, a senior Seoul official told reporters, requesting anonymity.
The first defence ministerial talks between the countries since November 2019 came amid recent efforts to mend bilateral ties strained over long-running historical spats stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.
Their relations have recently taken a turn for the better after Seoul's decision in March to compensate Korean victims of Japanese wartime forced labour on its own without asking for contributions from Japanese firms.
During the talks, the two ministers agreed on the importance of further advancing security cooperation between their countries, as well as trilaterally with their shared ally, the US, to deter and respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile threats, according to Seoul's Defence Ministry.
On Saturday, Lee and Hamada held trilateral talks with their US counterpart, Lloyd Austin, on a range of issues, including trilateral cooperation against the security challenge that the North poses.
Lee and Hamada also "strongly condemned" Pyongyang's launch of a "long-range ballistic missile under the guise of a so-called satellite" last week as a "grave" violation of UN Security Council resolutions banning any launch using ballistic missile technology, the ministry said.
The North carried out the failed yet defiant launch of a purported space rocket Wednesday.
Lee and Hamada also agreed that the two countries' defence authorities will continue close communication to enhance security cooperation, citing their leaders' agreement to develop bilateral ties to another level, the ministry added.
South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol visited Tokyo in March for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, and Kishida visited Seoul last month, resuming so-called shuttle diplomacy between the two countries' leaders after 12 years.