Officials of two Koreas to meet in Manila amid Seoul-Tokyo diplomatic row

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Officials of South and North Korea are expected to meet at an international peace conference in the Philippines this week amid a growing diplomatic row between Seoul and Tokyo over wartime forced labor and economic retaliation, conference organizers said Tuesday. The government of Gyeonggi Province, South Korea’s most populous province that surrounds Seoul, and the Asia Pacific Peace Interchange Association will jointly hold the “2019 International Convention for Peace and Prosperity in the Asia Pacific” in Manila from Thursday to Saturday, drawing about 300 participants from 10 countries, including the two Koreas and Japan, they said. It will be a second such conference following the inaugural one held in Goyang, north of Seoul, last November with the attendance of a North Korean delegation.

North Korea is again expected to send a delegation to the Manila conference for a reunion with South Korean officials amid expectations that the issues of forced labor and sexual slavery, caused by Japan during its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, will be high on the agenda. Early this month, the Japanese government implemented tougher restrictions on exports to South Korea of three key materials crucial for the production of semiconductors and displays in apparent response to Seoul’s handling of a wartime forced labor issue. Tokyo is pushing to remove South Korea from a list of trusted buyers, which could negatively affect the supply of other key materials needed for making smartphones, televisions and other industrial materials.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who has repeatedly apologized for Japanese war crimes, will again attend the peace conference and is expected to speak on Tokyo’s economic retaliation against Seoul, as well as on the issues of wartime forced labor and sexual slavery. Hatoyama said at the previous conference in Goyang that Japan’s government and corporations should provide compensation to individual victims of forced labor.

According to organizers and sources, North Korea is expected to send a six-person delegation to the Manila conference to be led by Ri Jong-hyok, vice chairman of the Korean Asia-Pacific Peace Committee. Ri attended last year’s Goyang conference too. From South Korea, about 30 delegates, including Lee Hwa-young, vice Gyeonggi Province governor for peace, and former Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, will attend the conference. South and North Korean officials are also expected to discuss additional measures to strength inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation projects.

(Yonhap)

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