SEOUL--South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon is calling on Emperor Akihito to consider making a landmark visit to South Korea before he abdicates.

Lee pitched the idea during an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Seoul on Sept. 22.

Given the 83-year-old emperor's past references to Japan’s historical connections with the Korean Peninsula, a visit to South Korea could prove hugely beneficial in drastically improving bilateral relations, analysts in the two countries said.

“If (the emperor) visits South Korea before his abdication and removes obstacles that have hindered efforts by the two countries to date, the visit will become a big help for the development of bilateral relations," Lee said. "I hope that the climate for such a visit can be achieved as early as possible.”

Lee indicated that the South Korean government headed by President Moon Jae-in will make efforts to bring about conditions conducive to the visit.

Lee also noted that next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the “Japan-South Korea declaration for partnership” signed in 1998 by Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and South Korean President Kim Dae-jung, who are both deceased.

“That was a period when relations between South Korea and Japan were at their best," he said. "It will be good if bilateral relations can be restored to that level. I hope that our respective diplomatic channels can get started on the relevant discussions."

Lee's remarks suggested that he is hopeful a new political agreement can be reached.

Other topics of the interview included the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA), under which the two countries provide each other with confidential military information.

The agreement was scheduled to expire in November, but extended for one year in August. Lee was clearly happy about this, saying, “I think that it is a matter of course.”

However, he added a note of caution. “As of now, we are not examining ways to take joint cooperation to the next stage.”

His remark was in reference to concerns about concluding a bilateral Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which would require the Japanese Self-Defense Forces and the South Korean military to exchange parts of weapons, ammunition and fuel to each other.

With regard to differences between the two countries over historical perception, Lee emphasized that he wants to solve them in a future-oriented manner.

“It is true that the South Korean people harbor feelings of love and hatred (toward Japan), but there are many things South Korea can share (with Japan),” he said.

In South Korea, the prime minister occupies the No. 2 post after the president. The prime minister oversees domestic politics.