Japan’s security adviser to meet his counterpart

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Japan’s security adviser to meet his counterpart

Shotaro Yachi, the national security adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, will visit Seoul today and meet with National Security Chief Kim Kwan-jin, the Blue House said yesterday.

The scheduled talk raises hopes for the realization of a long-awaited summit between Abe and President Park Geun-hye.

“Yachi will visit Korea on Oct. 21 and Oct. 22 for a dialogue with Kim Kwan-jin to discuss strategic issues on the Korean Peninsula, regional issues in Northeast Asia as well as the international political situation, and to exchange opinions on topics of mutual interest - diplomacy and security,” the Blue House said in a release.

Yachi is the first director of the National Security Council (NSC), which was launched in January as a crucial step in Abe’s push for Japan to boost its role in regional security.

A diplomatic source said his visit to Seoul is meant to lay the groundwork for a dialogue between Park and Abe, and to resume security cooperation between the two nations.

“We are paying attention to the possibility that Yachi will be delivering Abe’s message - like a breakthrough solution to the issue of Japan’s forced recruitment of Korean women into military brothels during World War II - to Korea,” he said.

Sources with the Japanese government said Yachi had several meetings with Abe at the prime minister’s residence last week to discuss which specific messages to send to Seoul.

During his two-day stay here, Yachi is expected to pursue meetings with key diplomatic and security officials.

Since the launch of its own NSC, Japan has submitted several requests to the Blue House for a meeting with Kim, his counterpart, though the Korean presidential office consistently postponed its acceptance, citing Korea’s unfavorable public sentiment toward Japan.

As a diplomatic envoy to Abe, Yachi is known to be actively spearheading a quiet operation by the Japanese government to clinch the first meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Abe at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, scheduled for Nov. 10 to 11 in Beijing.

When former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda held secret talks with Xi in July, Yachi was dispatched by Abe to express Tokyo’s willingness to hold talks with the Chinese leader.

If the Korean and Japanese governments reach a decision on a Park-Abe dialogue, it would likely be on the sidelines of the APEC meeting, too, both government sources and experts have forecast.

Abe has been seeking separate summits with Xi and Park since he was inaugurated in December 2012.

Although Abe has visited about 50 countries since, he has failed to bring about meetings with the leaders of Korea and China, as tensions over historical and territorial disputes with both countries remain high.

According to The Japan Times, while serving as counselor at the Cabinet Secretariat last year, Yachi exerted such a strong influence in diplomatic matters that some government officials began to refer to him as the “shadow foreign minister.”

He also played a decisive role in pushing the Cabinet to approve a proposal in July to reinterpret Japan’s pacific Constitution to end the ban on allowing its military forces to exercise the right to collective self-defense.

BY SEO JI-EUN, KIM HYUN-KI [spring@joongang.co.kr]

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