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Japan's Suga hopes for 'forward-looking' ties in letter to South Korea's Moon

FILE PHOTO: Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga attends the opening of an extraordinary session of parliament, a day after he was elected as the country's new prime minister, in Tokyo, Japan September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Issei Kato

SEOUL (Reuters) - Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has expressed hopes for improved relations in a letter to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, Moon’s office said on Monday, amid strained ties over history and trade.

Feuds dating back to Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea continue to dog bilateral relations, including the issues of Korean labourers forced to work at Japanese firms and women at military brothels during World War II.

The ties further soured after South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered a Japanese steelmaker to pay compensation for forced labour in 2018, which prompted Tokyo to impose export curbs on some key high-tech materials.

In a letter delivered to Moon on Saturday, Suga underscored the need for cooperation between the two neighbours, Moon’s spokesman Kang Min-seok said.

“Prime Minister Suga in particular said he hoped the two countries overcome difficult issues and build a forward-looking relationship,” Kang told a briefing.

Moon also sent a congratulatory letter to Suga last week, saying he was willing to sit down anytime to improve relations and foster diplomatic, economic and people-to-people exchanges.

Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Tomasz Janowski