Park and Japan’s Abe talk about mending ties

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Park and Japan’s Abe talk about mending ties

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President Park Geun-hye had a phone conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe yesterday in the midst of strained relations between the two countries over territorial disputes and historic injustices.

It was the first phone conversation between Park and Abe since the Korean president’s inauguration on Feb. 25.

“Abe said he hopes to meet with Park at the trilateral summit among South Korea, Japan and China [in May] held in Seoul and invited Park to Japan,” Kim Haing, spokeswoman of Park, told a press briefing.

“He congratulated her on her inauguration and asked her to make efforts together on developing future-oriented relations in the 21st century between South Korea and Japan.”

Park “expressed her gratitude” for the sentiments, Kim said, and also asked Abe to improve the bilateral relations, taking advantage of the opportunity of the start of new administrations in both Korea and Japan.

Already under Park’s young administration, relations between the two countries deteriorated when Tokyo sent a vice-ministerial government official to the annual Takeshima Day celebration in Shimane Prefecture on Feb. 22, which celebrates Japan’s claim to Dokdo. Takeshima is Japan’s name for Dokdo.

In a speech commemorating the March 1 Independence Movement Day, Park appealed to Japan to “change unreservedly” in order for the “two nations to heal the wounds of the past as soon as possible and march together toward a future of shared progress.”

During the phone conversation, Park once again mentioned matters of history between the two nations.

“Park said she hopes political leaders [of the two countries] will make a decision to realize future-oriented relations, not getting stuck with historic problems that are blocking development of the two countries,” Kim said.

Abe didn’t attend the inaugural ceremony of Park. The Japanese media reported at the time that Abe made that decision because Park didn’t want to hold summits at the time.


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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