S.Korea lawmaker urges Japan to resolve history

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The leader of South Korea's main opposition party on Wednesday urged Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi before he leaves office later this year to resolve historical and territorial issues that have strained bilateral ties, media said.

Ties with South Korea have been chilled over Koizumi's repeated visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, seen by Seoul as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun last week urged Japan to stop all actions that diluted its apologies for past aggression.

South Korea has protested Tokyo's approval of history textbooks that Seoul says whitewash actions of Japan's military before and during World War Two.

The two nations are also locked in a dispute over some rocky islets midway between the two nations, called Tokto by Korean and Takeshima by Japan.

In a meeting with Koizumi, Park Geun-hye, head of the main opposition Grand National Party, which traditionally has a warmer view of Japan than the Roh government, called on him to resolve these and other issues before his term ends in September, Kyodo news agency said.

"It's a fact that Japan was a victimizer and South Korea was a victim," she was quoted by Kyodo as telling reporters after the meeting.

"But the problem will be solved by taking actions that take neighboring countries into account," she added.

According to a statement issued by Japan's Foreign Ministry, Koizumi and Park agreed on the need to build future-oriented relations between their two nations.

"Our nations have overcome a number of difficulties to have the relations we have today," the ministry quoted Koizumi as saying.

But Kyodo quoted Park as saying, "Unfortunately, there are hurdles such as the issues of Tokto, (Yasukuni) shrine visits, (revisionist) schoolbooks and sex slaves."

Park, the daughter of South Korea's former authoritarian ruler Park Chung-hee, is set to meet Foreign Minister Taro Aso later on Wednesday. Her visit to Japan lasts until Saturday.

Japan has issued apologies to women forced into sexual slavery for Japanese troops before and during World War Two as well as setting up a mostly private fund for compensation.

But critics say these efforts have been undercut by moves such as last year's approval of the history textbooks.

"Japan has already apologized," Roh said in a speech last week. "We are objecting to actions that negate that apology."

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized in 1995 for the country's colonial past -- which included colonizing the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945 -- and Koizumi repeated the apology last year.

He has paid annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine since taking office in 2001. Many people in South Korea and China find the visits offensive because convicted war criminals are honored along with war dead, but Koizumi says he goes there to pray for peace.

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