South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and Japan's new prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, agreed Wednesday to work closely together and with the United States on North Korea issues, officials said.
It was the first time that Lee and Noda have met face-to-face since the Japanese leader took office late last month. The two spoke by phone earlier this month. Wednesday's talks took place as the two leaders were in New York for the U.N. General Assembly.
"It is necessary for our two countries as well as the United States to unite strength for security in Northeast Asia," Lee told Noda, according to presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha. "It is important for South Korea, the U.S. and Japan to cooperate closely and share information, and this is the way to get North Korea to come out to the international community."
Noda said he agrees on the point and asked for Seoul's cooperation on the issue of North Korea's abduction of Japanese nationals. The Japanese leader also said that he held talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and that they reached a common understanding on the importance of three-way cooperation on North Korea issues, according to Park.
Noda expressed hope for progress in free trade discussions between the two countries.
In a statement, the presidential office said that the two sides also agreed to work together to improve their relations in a "mature, future-oriented manner while facing up to past history.
"I expect that Prime Minister Noda will contribute greatly to strengthening relations between the two countries," Lee said at the start of the meeting.
Noda said in response that continuity is important in diplomacy and his government will consider South Korea a very important neighbor as its predecessors did, and will continue to strengthen the friendly ties between the two countries.
The relations between Seoul and Tokyo have often frayed over issues stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea, including Japan's territorial claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo or its attempt to gloss over wartime atrocities.
Lee and Noda also agreed to continue cooperation on other matters, such as Japan's promise to return centuries-old Korean royal texts and creating the atmosphere for resuming free trade talks between the two countries, the office said.