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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japan, S. Korea Hit Gridlock

SEOUL, South Korea -- The leaders of Japan and South Korea tried to heal ties wounded by spats over islands and Tokyo's wartime history, but the Asian neighbors failed at a summit Monday to reach any significant new agreements on resolving their disputes.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun said he had a "honest and sincere discussion" with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in two hours of talks mostly focusing on the history issue.

"There were efforts to understand each other and in some areas there was understanding, but there was no agreement," Roh told a news conference in gardens outside the presidential Blue House, where the two leaders spoke in somber tones and refused to take questions.

"It is very important to emphasize each others' willingness for peace and to enhance exchanges and strengthen cooperation, but it is difficult to say that peace in the future can be guaranteed with just that," Roh said, adding that both sides should make efforts to form common perceptions on the past. Relations between South Korea and Japan have soured in recent months with renewed Japanese claims to a set of islets in waters between the countries controlled by Seoul, and Tokyo's approval of history textbooks that critics say gloss over Japan's brutal military occupation of much of East Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.

The summit Monday took place in what local media have said is a new low in Tokyo-Seoul relations, with Roh saying as late as last week that he was not sure whether to hold such meeting.

Koizumi's trip sparked the ire of protesters who gathered Monday at the Japanese Embassy in downtown Seoul, far outnumbered by dozens of riot police and journalists. Another group of demonstrators made a failed attempt to block Koizumi's motorcade on its way to meet Roh.

Anti-Japanese sentiment is widespread in South Korea, which was subject to Tokyo's colonial rule in 1910-45, when Koreans were forced to adopt Japanese names and persecuted for resistance to the regime.