WASHINGTON-- The United States will continue to strengthen its trilateral cooperation with South Korea and Japan, a state department spokesperson said Monday, shortly after Seoul and Tokyo announced steps aimed at improving their bilateral ties.
Department Press Secretary Ned Price said the US welcomes the "historic" steps taken by the two US allies.
"The United States welcomes the historic announcement that bilateral discussions between the Republic of Korea and Japan to resolve sensitive historical issues have concluded," Price told a daily press briefing, referring to South Korea by its official name.
"The Republic of Korea and Japan are two of our most important allies in the Indo-Pacific and globally, and stronger ties between them advance our own shared goals," he added.
Seoul-Tokyo relations have remained sour for several years due to a range of historical issues, including forced laborers and sex slaves.
Seoul on Monday announced plans to establish a private fund that will help compensate Koreans forced into labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.
Japan said it will soon remove export restrictions it had placed against South Korea in 2019.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier hailed the announcements by Seoul and Tokyo, calling them the "most important allies" of the US in a released statement.
Price underlined the importance of trilateral cooperation between the US, South Korea and Japan in dealing with various challenges such as North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations.
"We welcome the advancement of the bilateral relationship between the ROK and Japan but it's also critically important to us that the trilateral relationship between Japan, the ROK and the United States is as deep and effective and seamless as it possibly can be," the department spokesperson told the press briefing.
The plan to have a private fund compensate Korean victims, instead of Japanese firms that had forced them into labor, was quickly met by some criticism, with some of the few remaining victims also demanding a formal apology from Tokyo.
Price said the issues of history are "difficult" and "complicated" when asked if the US believes Japan owed an official apology, adding such issues are for the two countries to decide.
"We are going to play whatever role we can to be most helpful, as helpful as we can to our treaty allies," he said when asked if the US has played any role in the decisions by Seoul and Tokyo. "But these are decisions that the countries themselves have had to decide to pursue." (Yonhap)