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Neighbors warily eye better ties under Abe

Sept 27,2006
Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon yesterday welcomed the election of Shinzo Abe as prime minister of Japan, saying Seoul was willing to consider a meeting between President Roh Moo-hyun and Mr. Abe.
But, he said, there were conditions attached. Speaking to Kyodo News Agency in New York, Mr. Ban said, “We sincerely hope that Prime Minister Abe will learn lessons from what transpired in Prime Minister’s Koizumi’s administration. That means he should squarely address the issue of our historical legacy. Then we are prepared to have many kinds of high level exchanges and meetings, including summit meetings.” In Korea’s view Japan continues to glorify its imperial history and refuses to acknowledge colonial and wartime atrocities. Visits by Japan’s leaders to a controversial shrine have further soured relations.
Japan’s new chief cabinet secretary, Yasuhisa Shiozaki, welcomed Mr. Ban’s remarks, saying he shared the view that a summit meeting should be held as soon as possible. Not so fast, growled Lee Youn-soo, the Korean Foreign Ministry’s press relations chief, telling reporters that Seoul first wanted to see a “sincere attitude” on Tokyo’s part.
Part of Seoul’s caution in reacting to Mr. Shiozaki’s call for a quick meeting of the two leaders was Kyodo’s interpretation of Mr. Ban’s remarks; the Japanese news agency said Seoul was “considering” such a meeting. That, the Foreign Ministry told reporters pointedly, was an overstatement of Seoul’s stance.
On Tuesday night, the Blue House said President Roh had sent a congratulatory message to Mr. Abe after his election.


by Brian Lee


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