Assembly speaker to meet with Abe next month

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Assembly speaker to meet with Abe next month

Korea’s National Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa is expected to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on a visit to Japan next month amid a recent increase in exchanges between high-level politicians from the two nations.

Chung, a five-term lawmaker, is scheduled to visit Japan for three days starting Oct. 26. According to diplomatic sources from both countries, he is expected to meet with Japan’s ruling and opposition party leaders, including Bunmei Ibuki, the speaker of the House of Representatives, and Masaaki Yamazaki, the president of the upper house of the National Diet.

Chung’s trip makes him the highest-ranking official from the current administration so far to visit Tokyo since the inception of the Park Geun-hye government.

Several international leadership summits are scheduled this fall, with considerable interest in what sort of message is conveyed between Korea and Japan’s leadership and if it could pave the way for a bilateral summit.

Last Friday, former Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori delivered a handwritten letter from Abe in a rare meeting with President Park Geun-hye at the Blue House.

In the letter, Abe proposed meeting with Park, saying that he looked forward to meeting her at international conferences in the coming months.

“Since Prime Minister Mori’s visited Korea on Sept. 19 and delivered a handwritten letter from Prime Minister Abe to President Park, there is a likelihood that speaker Chung will bring a handwritten reply from Park to Abe.”

Chung was invited to Tokyo by Ibuki, who became speaker of the Japanese lower house in December 2012.

He initially sent an invitation to Chung at the end of last month, requesting a meeting with leaders from Korea and Japan’s legislatures to “make a breakthrough in the improvement of Korea-Japan relations.”

Ibuki previously served as education minister during Abe’s first term as prime minister in 2006 and secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party from 2007 to 2008.

Chung’s visit to Japan will have symbolic significance at a time when diplomatic ties between the two nations have remained frigid over historical and territorial disputes.

The last meeting between Korea and Japan’s leadership involved President Lee Myung-bak and Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko in December 2011 in Kyoto.

A National Assembly speaker officially visited Japan last in 2010, when then-speaker Park Hee-tae met with then-Prime Minister Kan Naoto.

Officials from Korea and Japan are expected to attend a number of international conferences in November, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference in Beijing and the G-20 summit in Brisbane, Australia.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida is currently seeking talks with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se, which are in the final stages of approval, Japanese media reported yesterday. Korean officials said yesterday they are still in the process of negotiating a meeting.


BY KIM HYUN-KI, SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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