Japan PM to give back royal papers

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Japan PM to give back royal papers

Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will bring several volumes of missing Joseon royal documents with him when he comes to Korea today, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

Noda plans to make a two-day visit to Seoul, his first visit to Korea as prime minister since taking office early last month. The plan for Noda’s visit was announced at a meeting between the foreign ministers of Japan and Korea held earlier this month.

The early, partial return of the books - they are among a total of 1,205 volumes of Uigwe that Japan has promised to return to Korea by Dec. 10 - is seen as a diplomatic move to focus the summit on general cooperation issues while averting conflicting sovereignty and historical issues.

Noda will see President Lee Myung-bak tomorrow in what will be the second meeting between the two leaders after a brief meeting in New York on Sept. 22 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly. He is expected to discuss the Korea-Japan Free Trade Agreement, North Korean nuclear issues and the possibility of opening opportunities for bilateral exchanges in the governmental and private sectors.

Nevertheless, the meeting also draws attention to the possibility that the new Japanese leader could clarify his stance on thorny issues such as Japan’s sovereignty claim to the Dokdo islets, Korea’s easternmost islets also claimed by Japan, or the distortion of shared history in school textbooks.

A comment on Seoul’s proposal to discuss compensation for Japan’s exploitation of Korean women as sexual slaves during World War II is another possibility to watch for during Noda’s visit. At the foreign ministers’ meeting on Oct. 6, Japanese Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba reiterated Japan’s position that it is already a settled issue, which diplomats in Seoul perceived as almost refusing a suggestion for talks.

What the two leaders discuss during the summit will be announced in a joint press conference after the meeting takes place.

Noda’s appointment as Japanese prime minister worried some in Korea because of right-wing political comments he made in the past concerning international affairs, which sounded more like comments that would be made by members of the conservative opposition Liberal Democratic Party.

Noda had said class-A war criminals enshrined at Yasukuni Shrine are no longer criminals because they had already been convicted and punished. Japan’s 35-year-long colonial rule of Korea ended with Japan’s surrender during World War II in 1945.

He had also expressed a negative view about granting foreigners the right to vote in Japanese elections.

By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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