Vietnam Expresses Support for South Korea’s Opposition to Japan’s UNESCO Bid

luvsmiling, May 28, 2015, 10:53 a.m.

Vietnam expressed support Thursday for South Korea's opposition to Japan's bid to win UNESCO heritage status for its past industrial sites, Seoul's defense ministry said. Japan has been actively pushing to gain world heritage status for its 19th-century industrial facilities, where tens of thousands of Koreans were brought before and during its 1910-45 colonial rule, a move seen by South Korea as an attempt to deny the forced nature of the mobilization.

During the meeting with Vietnamese defense chief Phung Quang Thanh in Hanoi on Thursday, South Korea's Defense Minister Han Min-koo asked for the southeast country's "understanding and support for Seoul's effort to stop Japan's drive," reminding him of their similar national history as a colony.

"In response, the Vietnamese minister expressed his empathy with the shared painful history, and vowed to deliver Seoul's request to its relevant department," Seoul's defense ministry said in a release. South Korea and Japan held talks in Tokyo last week to resolve the dispute, but failed to make a breakthrough, according to South Korean officials.

They instead agreed to hold another round of talks after Japan proposed they seek a compromise on the issue, a South Korean official told reporters on condition of anonymity. Talks have begun to decide the date and location for the next meeting, which South Korea hopes to host in Seoul, the official said. The final decision on the matter is expected to come during a meeting of the World Heritage Committee slated for June 28-July 8 in Bonn, Germany, with Vietnam being a member of the UNESCO committee.

During the ministerial talks, the two sides also shared the need for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, which has seen continued nuclear and missile threats by North Korea, according to Han's office. "Han stressed Seoul's efforts for building trust between the two Koreas and for peaceful reunification, and the Vietnamese minister expressed support for such policy," it added. Seoul and Hanoi also vowed joint efforts to boost defense cooperation in such fields as cyber security, peacekeeping operations and personnel exchanges.

They also agreed to push for signing the memorandum of understanding on the bilateral Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), the framework for logistics cooperation between armed forces, during their vice ministerial-level dialogue slated for July, according to the ministry. The two sides had planned to clinch the deal during the talks in the day, but the plan "was ruptured at the last minute," a Seoul official said, without further elaboration. Seoul and Hanoi have been pushing for the agreement since 2011.

Han is in the southeast Asian country from Wednesday for a three-day schedule during which he visited the country's elite unit of the mechanized division. He later in the day plans to pay a courtesy call to the president. Following the trip to Vietnam, the defense chief will fly to Singapore on Friday to attend the Asia Security Summit, also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue. On the sidelines of the three-day dialogue to run until Sunday, Han plans to hold bilateral talks with his counterparts from the U.S. and Japan, as well as other regional partners, according to his office.

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