Japan asks for Park-Abe summit

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Japan asks for Park-Abe summit

TOKYO - Japan has proposed bilateral talks between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye as tensions remain high between the two countries over historical and territorial disputes.

According to sources and broadcaster NHK, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida had a meeting with Lee Byung-kee, the Korean ambassador to Japan, at a restaurant in Tokyo on Monday and expressed the Japanese government’s hope for a summit between the leaders of the two countries.

Kishida told Lee that Japan “hopes the two leaders can have frank talks, as there are lots of opportunities to do so, such as the G-20 summit in September, the APEC meeting or the Asean plus three summit,” diplomatic sources told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Delivering President Park’s principle of not holding “talks for the sake of talks,” Lee reportedly responded that he “will deliver the position of the Japanese government to ours.”

The meeting between Kishida and Lee was arranged by Japan, the sources said, and was attended by other high-level officials.

The Japanese government reportedly wants a Park-Abe summit “as soon as possible,” such as on the sidelines of the upcoming G-20 summit to be held on Sept. 5 and 6 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The proposal from Tokyo came amid rising criticism in the region from countries including Korea about the perception some far-right Japanese politicians have of certain historical issues, such as forced sexual slavery of women from the region during World War II and ongoing territorial disputes such as that over the Dokdo islets, the Korean-controlled islands that Japan claims and calls Takeshima.

The South Korean Foreign Ministry admitted Lee met with Kishida on Monday, but refused to divulge the details of their discussion.

“Nothing has been decided with regards to a Korea-Japan summit,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said at a daily briefing in Seoul yesterday.

If Park accepts the alleged proposal, it would be her first meeting with Abe since her February inauguration.

The Japanese-language version of news outlet NHK said that Kishida evaluated President Park’s Liberation Day speech as “forward-looking.”

In response, Lee also positively evaluated Abe’s decision not to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where Class-A war criminals are buried, on the day, which is also the day Japan surrendered in World War II.

NHK said that Lee added it was unfortunate Abe didn’t mention any regret about the war crimes imperial Japan committed against other Asian countries or offered his condolences for the victims.

All former Japanese prime ministers since 1993 have made such comments in their Aug. 15 speeches honoring dead Japanese soldiers.

BY SEO SEUNG-WOOK, KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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