TOKYO, May 2 (AFP) - Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said Tuesday (May 2) he plans to visit South Korea next week for talks with President Yoon Suk-yeol, as the two US allies pursue warmer ties.

It would be the first visit to the country by a Japanese premier since 2018, and comes after Kishida and Yoon agreed to end tit-for-tat trade curbs at a March summit in Tokyo.

The neighbours were locked in a bitter dispute for years over Japan's use of forced labour during World War II.

But Yoon has been keen to end the spat and form a united front against regional challenges including North Korea.

"We are coordinating (my) visit to South Korea on May 7 and 8, if circumstances permit," Kishida said in Ghana, the second leg of a tour to four African nations and Singapore.

The visit, ahead of the G7 summit in Hiroshima, is "a good opportunity to hold a candid exchange of opinions over accelerating Japan and South Korea's relationship, and the rapidly changing international situation", he told reporters.

Kishida said he hoped the trip would "give momentum to 'shuttle diplomacy'" between Japan and South Korea.

The leaders pledged in March to restart mutual visits on a regular basis, a practice suspended for over a decade, and Kishida has invited Yoon to the G7 summit on May 19 to 21.

Often-testy relations between the countries deteriorated after South Korea's Supreme Court in 2018 ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of forced wartime labour.

But this year, Seoul announced a plan to pay those affected without Tokyo's involvement.

In further efforts to thaw ties, Japan's trade ministry said last week it had started the process to add South Korea back to a so-called "white list" of trusted trade partners, having downgraded it in 2019.