Japan finance minister to visit Seoul next week amid diplomatic tensions

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November 16, 2012 2:42 PM EST

Japanese Finance Minister Koriki Jojima said on Friday he would visit Seoul on November 24 to meet with his South Korean counterpart at a finance dialogue, in a sign of some thawing in bilateral relations amid tensions over a territorial dispute.

The dialogue, the fifth of its kind, marks the first fully-fledged official meeting between the two Asian neighbours since the territorial spat flared up in the summer.

Talks had been postponed since Jojima's predecessor Jun Azumi cancelled his trip to Seoul in August when President Lee Myung-bak's visit to the islands that both countries claim sovereignty over sparked the political row.

South Korea controls the islands, known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, equidistant from the mainlands of both countries. Japan is also embroiled in a dispute with China over a different group of islands in the East China Sea.

Jojima said he would discuss Europe's problems, emerging market economies as well as the bilateral economic issues with South Korean Finance Minister Bahk Jae-wan during his visit.

He shrugged off some doubt about the significance of the meeting as it comes just before elections in both countries due next month, which may result in a change of government.

"Even if a change of government occurs, it is still meaningful to carry out the dialogue under the current administration," he told reporters.

Japan is set to dissolve parliament's lower house on Friday for a December 16 election that is likely to return the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to power with a conservative former prime minister at the helm.

Tokyo and Seoul agreed last month not to renew a $57 billion currency swap facility designed to shield their economies from financial crisis, a decision they said was based on economic grounds and unrelated to the territorial dispute.

But Japan is still considering purchasing South Korean government bonds to promote bilateral economic cooperation.

(Reporting by Tetsushi Kajimoto; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)

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Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters UK. All rights reserved.

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