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U.S. Appeals To Asian Allies To Improve Strained Relations

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Daniel Russel (R), US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, speaks to the media after his meeting with South Korean officials at the foreign ministry in Seoul on September 6, 2013. Russel is in Seoul to discuss issues of mutual concern, including efforts to denuclearize North Korea. AFP PHOTO / JUNG YEON-JE (Photo credit should read JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images) | JUNG YEON-JE via Getty Images

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is appealing to its closest Asian allies, Japan and South Korea, to improve their strained relations, saying there's an urgent need to show restraint on "difficult historical issues."

Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel's comments Tuesday reflect growing angst in Washington over the widening gulf between Tokyo and Seoul over Japan's attitude to its wartime and imperial past.

Deepening that standoff, Japan recently announced it is reviewing evidence on which a landmark 1993 apology over forced prostitution during World War II was based. South Korea has warned that would only isolate Japan.

In congressional testimony, Russel didn't apportion blame for the strained relations. He said dedicated efforts by both parties are needed to calm tensions but added historical issues should be handled "in a way that promotes healing."

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