5 Jan 2013

Japan reaches out to new South Korean leader

10:58 pm on 5 January 2013

Japan's new prime minister, Shinzo Abe, has sent a special envoy to South Korea to try to repair relations damaged by a territorial dispute and arguments over Japan's colonial past.

Tokyo says the new government will stand by an historic 1995 statement by its then prime minister apologising for South Korean suffering caused by Japan's wartime aggression.

The special envoy Fukushiro Nukaga is delivering deliver a letter to South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye, the BBC reports.

The two states have been involved in a prolonged row over disputed islands.

Mr Abe was sworn-in during December, while Ms Park is set to assume office next month.

Diplomatic relations became tense after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made a surprise visit last year to the disputed islands known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

North Korea also claims the islands, which consist of two main islands and about 30 smaller rocks, the waters of which are seen as valuable fishing grounds.

A South Korean coastguard detachment has been stationed at the disputed islands since 1954.