중앙데일리

Abe, Roh rush to a summit on Monday

Oct 02,2006
TOKYO ― Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to visit Beijing on Sunday and meet with President Roh Moo-hyun the following day, diplomatic sources said yesterday. Kyodo News Agency carried similar reports on Sunday, citing sources it did not identify.
A press release yesterday by Japan’s Foreign Ministry indicated that a meeting between Mr. Roh and Mr. Abe was imminent but gave no date. It said the two nations’ foreign ministers talked by phone yesterday and pledged to make the summit meeting successful despite the short preparation time. In Seoul, a government official said yesterday the Monday meeting date would be announced Wednesday morning, but would not say so for attribution.
Both governments have been circling warily to find a formula for resuming leadership contacts. Mr. Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, had angered China and Korea by visiting the Yasukuni Shrine, where executed war criminals as well as other war dead are commemorated, leading to a boycott by Japan’s neighbors.
Publicly, the new Japanese administration has given no sign of backing off from its predecessor’s views, which critics in neighboring countries say glorified Japanese imperialism and colonial rule and played down wartime atrocities.
Seoul, in commenting on the possibility of a leaders’ meeting, has taken an aggressive posture, demanding that Japan change that course. Officials here and in Seoul have been tight-lipped about what, if any, assurances Tokyo may give about a change in rhetoric, shrine visits or some textbooks that feed neighboring governments’ outrage.
Several sources have said Tokyo first proposed a meeting between Mr. Abe and Mr. Roh in Seoul this Saturday, but the Koreans vetoed that idea because of the Chuseok holiday. Finally, these sources said, the two governments settled on a visit by Mr. Abe on Monday, a day after he will be in China to meet President Hu Jintao.
A Japanese diplomat said a bit cryptically yesterday that Mr. Abe was pressing for quick meetings, judging that “political difficulties” might make them less likely in the future. “We thought that the South Korean and Chinese government would think the same way,” the official said.
While speculative, that could imply that Mr. Abe might have to bow to conservative pressure in the future and visit the war shrine. A Japanese lawmaker, thinking along those lines, warned that the haste to set meetings could backfire for that reason.


by Kim Hyun-ki, Brian Lee


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