Toward a summitKorea and Japan are resuming ministerial-level meetings despite enduring conflict over the thorny issues of history. The neighbors held a meeting of finance ministers in Tokyo and of trade ministers in Boracay, the Philippines, last weekend after a more than two-year hiatus.
In Singapore, the host country of the 14th Asia Security Summit (also known as the Shangri-La Dialogue) organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a British think tank, Korea and Japan will hold a meeting between their defense ministers, the first in four years. In Tokyo last month, a meeting between Korean and Japanese tourism ministers also took place. We hope the development paves the way for a summit between Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In order to find a breakthrough in the long diplomatic deadlock, our government must take a two-track approach by separating territorial and historical issues from the economy and security. It will undoubtedly damage the national interests of both countries if they blindly adhere to the tough positions on historical and territorial issues - which need a long time to settle - and disrupt mutual cooperation in a myriad of other fields. We welcome the government’s decision, though belated, to resume various types of ministerial meetings with Japan.
In the first finance ministers meeting since the launch in February 2013 of the Park Geun-hye administration, Choi Kyung-hwan, finance minister and deputy prime minister for the economy, and his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso agreed to beef up cooperation in economic and financial areas under the principle of separating political issues from economic issues. They reached a rare consensus on making joint efforts to promote the trilateral free trade deal between Korea, China and Japan, while cooperating on fields of common interests, such as ultra-low birthrates, fast-ageing populations, encouraging companies to use cash reserves as investments and assisting start-ups.
In particular, resuming the meeting of defense ministers carries great significance. North Korea recently went so far as to test-fire an alleged submarine-launched ballistic missile, providing a justification for augmenting security cooperation between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
Despite deep disagreements over history and territorial matters, China’s President Xi Jinping and Abe had two summits already. Japan sent a 3,000-strong delegation to visit China as a gesture to improve relations with Beijing, and the two countries are quickly restoring bilateral ties. Such a pragmatic working out of state affairs must apply to summit meetings agreed to by Korea, too. We hope the resumption of ministerial-level meetings leads to a summit soon.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 25, Page 22