The leaders of South Korea and Japan met for the first time in three years on Wednesday in New York and agreed to move ahead and resolve their differences.

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session and agreed on the need to improve relations between the two countries by resolving pending issues, Yonhap News Agency quoted the South Korean presidential office as saying.

The meeting lasted for 30-minutes and was deemed "informal."

It is the first since December 2019 that the leaders of the two countries met face to face as bilateral relations spiraled down to an all-time low over wartime issues during Japan's colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula.

The highest-level interaction between Yoon and Kishida followed a meeting between the foreign ministers of South Korea and Japan on Monday.

“The two leaders agreed on the need to improve bilateral relations by resolving pending issues, and agreed to instruct their diplomats to accelerate talks between them to that end while also continuing discussions between themselves,” the agency quoted Lee Jae-myoung, deputy presidential spokesperson, as saying.

“The two leaders shared serious concerns about North Korea's nuclear program, including its recent legalization of nuclear arms and the possibility of a seventh nuclear test, and agreed to cooperate closely with the international community to respond to it," he added.

South Korean officials hoped that the meeting would pave the way to resolve pending issues between the countries.

"We took the first step toward producing tangible results, after two years and 10 months. Despite the existence of various disputes between South Korea and Japan, the two leaders met and took the first step toward a resolution. That is why it was highly significant," a presidential official told reporters in New York.

According to Tokyo, the two leaders confirmed the "importance of promoting" bilateral and trilateral cooperation also involving the US, since "Japan and South Korea are important neighbors for each other in the current strategic environment."

They also agreed to continue "communicating and accelerating dialogue at the level of senior diplomats."

Meanwhile, the US and South Korean nuclear envoys expressed concerns over North Korea’s recent move to adopt a law that authorizes the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in the face of an imminent threat to regime security.

Kim Gunn, special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, and his American counterpart, Sung Kim, vowed to respond if North Korea carried out a nuclear test.