By Hyonhee Shin and Sangmi Cha
SEOUL, Sept 16 (Reuters) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in has told Japan's new prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, that he was willing to sit down anytime in a bid to improve ties strained by historical and economic disputes, Moon's office said on Wednesday.
Disputes dating from the neighbouring nation's colonial occupation of Korea from 1910 to 1945 deepened over a 2018 order by South Korea's Supreme Court for a Japanese steelmaker to pay compensation for forced labour during World War Two.
In a move widely seen as retaliation for the ruling, Japan last year said it would stop preferential treatment for shipments to South Korea of some key high-tech materials whose production it dominates and which are used by firms such as Samsung Electronics Co.
In a letter to Suga, Moon said Japan shared fundamental values and strategic interests with South Korea, and was its closest friend geographically and culturally, said Kang Min-seok, a spokesman of the presidential Blue House.
"Our government plans to cooperate actively with the Suga administration to wisely overcome issues of past history and reinforce practical cooperation," Kang told a briefing.
These included economic concerns and people-to-people exchanges, he added.
Kang said Moon also sent a letter to Suga's predecessor, Shinzo Abe, wishing him a rapid recovery following his resignation because of ill-health. (Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Sangmi Cha; Writing by Josh Smith; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)