Kyoto: South Korea's President Lee Myung Bak arrived in Japan on Saturday to hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in Kyoto city, with the issue of wartime sex slavery and North Korea's nuclear ambition expected to be on the agenda.
    
Lee's trip comes at a delicate time as there have been growing calls in South Korea to address the issue of compensation for former sex slaves during World War II, euphemistically called "comfort women."
    
The recent incident in which a statue was erected in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul as a dedication to comfort women puts a renewed spotlight on the issue. In protest, Japan has called for the statue to be removed.
    
During their talks on Sunday, Lee plans to raise the issue of compensation for comfort women, according to a South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman, while the Japanese side has declined to say whether Noda will touch on the issue.
    
How the matter will be handled is "ultimately the Prime Minister's decision," Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said at a news conference on Friday.
    
South Korea has recently been pressing for bilateral negotiations on compensation for comfort women, but Japan has rejected the call, claiming that the issue was settled by a bilateral treaty in 1965 that normalized diplomatic ties.

The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945 and many Korean women were forced into sexual slavery at the behest of the Japanese military.
    
The bilateral summit is part of "shuttle diplomacy," in which the leaders visit each other's country.
    
Noda and Lee are also expected to reaffirm cooperation between their countries, as well as a trilateral one with the United States at a time when Washington is holding bilateral talks with Pyongyang and urging the North to take concrete steps toward denuclearisation, a Japanese official said.
    
The six-party talks involving the two Koreas, Japan, the United States and China, as well as Russia, and aimed at denuclearising the Korean Peninsula, have been stalled since 2008.
    
The two leaders will also discuss accelerating efforts to resume stalled negotiations for a free trade accord, the official said.
    
Noda and Lee are likely to confirm their cooperation in dealing with illegal fishing by Chinese boats, according to government sources.
    
The move comes after a South Korean Coast Guard officer was killed in a crackdown on a Chinese boat, which was caught fishing illegally in South Korean waters.
    
Lee last visited Japan in May for a trilateral summit in Tokyo, also involving China, and met Noda's predecessor, Naoto Kan, with whom he reconfirmed the importance of strengthening mutual trust and forging a "future-oriented cooperative relationship."

(Agencies)