The president of South Korea on Thursday sent a conciliatory message to Japan to improve ties in a commemorative address on the 74th anniversary of Korea's liberation from Japanese colonial rule at the end of World War II.

"Better late than never: if Japan chooses the path of dialog and cooperation, we will gladly join hands," Moon Jae-in said.

"We will strive with Japan to create an East Asia that engages in fair trade and cooperation," he added.

Moon's message has been one of the clearest calls for dialog with Japan since the latter tightened restrictions on exports to South Korea, apparently in retaliation for their differences on compensation to South Korean workers enslaved during the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula (1910-1945).

The president repeatedly used the words "cooperation" and "prosperity" in his address, delivered in a ceremony held at the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan, around 85 kilometers (53 miles) south of Seoul, in which he stressed that the neighboring countries should "overcome" what had happened in the past and advance towards the future.

"We hope that Japan will play a leading role together in facilitating peace and prosperity in East Asia while it contemplates a past that brought misfortune to its neighboring countries," said Moon while urging Japan to stop using trade as a weapon.

The South Korean leader said that such behavior would only cause the free trade order to "suffer damages" and added that "a country that achieved growth first must not kick the ladder away while others are following in its footsteps," in remarks reported by local news agency Yonhap.

Moon also made a reference to neighboring North Korea and its negotiations with the United States on its denuclearization, which he described as "the most critical juncture" for the establishing peace on the peninsula He also outlined his vision for establishing a peace economy with "efforts to continue dialog and cooperation so that North Korea can choose economic prosperity over nuclear program upon the foundation."

The leader also pledged to achieve the unification of North and South Korea by 2045, the 100th anniversary of liberation from Japanese colonial rule. EFE