Ri was the Chief of General Staff of the Korean People's Army. He was considered a close mentor to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North's state-run news agency said he was relieved of his responsibilities because of illness.
Maehara told Kim that there is no change in his party's policy to support South Korea. He said Japan would continue to help find a peaceful solution to problems in the divided Korean Peninsula.
The South Korean foreign minister stressed the need to closely watch the North's moves following the removal of the top-ranking military commander.
The two also discussed trade issues. Maehara signaled his desire for an early conclusion of a Japan-South Korean economic partnership agreement. Kim replied that it's important for the 2 countries to conclude the EPA, despite the differences in opinion that South Koreans have on this issue.
Maehara told reporters afterwards they discussed the Korean women who were allegedly forced to work at military brothels during World War Two. He said they agreed to make efforts to resolve the issue.