TOKYO, May 18 (Yonhap) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that South Korea is the "most important" country that shares strategic interests, adding he will move toward building future-oriented ties between the Asian neighbors.
Abe made the remarks during a meeting with Moon Hee-sang, a special envoy of South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who was sent to deliver his letter to Abe and discuss summit talks. The meeting lasted about 30 minutes.
The special envoy, a five-term lawmaker of the Democratic Party, said that Japan and South Korea share not just a market economy and democracy but also the threats posed by North Korea's nuclear and missile ambitions.
The politician said that he came to Tokyo to deliver President Moon's intention to build forward-looking relations with Japan and his wish to meet the Japanese leader "at the earliest date" and "frequently." He also said that President Moon wants to revive shuttle diplomacy with Japan.
The envoy's visit to Japan came amid protracted friction over a controversial deal reached in 2015 between the two countries to end a long-running dispute over Japan's wartime sexual slavery of Korean women.
Under the December 2015 deal, Tokyo expressed an apology for its colonial-era atrocities and agreed to launch a foundation dedicated to supporting the surviving victims of sexual slavery. It also promised to contribute 1 billion yen (US$9.97 million) to the foundation launched last year.
Critics still doubt the sincerity of the apology and also criticized that the deal was hastily arranged without sufficiently seeking the opinions of victims.
In a telephone conversation with Abe last week after his inauguration, President Moon said that many Korean people cannot accept the deal emotionally, hinting at a possible move to renegotiate the deal.
The special envoy echoed the president's view Wednesday when he met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida. He also called for joint efforts to resolve the problem with wisdom.
Asked whether they discussed the issue during the meeting with Abe, the envoy told reporters that they did but declined to go into detail.
He still answered "yes" to a question whether he sufficiently explained President Moon's stance to the Japanese leader.
He intitially said that the letter he delivered to Abe does not appear to include anything related to the controversial deal but later rectified his comments, saying that it did.