Discussions ongoing for Park-Abe talks

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Discussions ongoing for Park-Abe talks

A summit between the leaders of Japan and Korea is being scheduled for the beginning of November to coincide with a trilateral meeting in Seoul that includes China, according to multiple sources from both countries on Thursday.

Japanese media including the Sankei Shimbun reported Thursday that the trilateral meeting will take place Nov. 1 at the Blue House, with talks between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye scheduled for the same day.

The three-way meeting in Seoul with the leaders of China, Japan and Korea was initially anticipated to take place either at the end of this month or the beginning of November.

Multiple officials here indicated that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang was likely to arrive in Seoul at the end of the month to hold talks with Park, and that Abe was expected in the capital on Nov. 1.

“The schedule for the summit with the leaders of Korea, Japan and China is currently being discussed and will be announced when it is finalized,” Noh Kwang-il, the spokesman for the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thursday when asked about the two-way talks.

“Right now, our government is putting all its focus on the success of the Korea-Japan-China leader’s summit; the issue of a bilateral summit will proceed for further review after a follow-up discussion.”

Joo Chul-ki, the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and security, was also reluctant to publicly confirm a date for trilateral talks amid Park’s state visit to Washington.

“It will be around that time frame, but it has not yet been confirmed,” he said.

The itinerary is expected to be fine-tuned with the foreign affairs officials from Korea, Japan and China in Seoul today for a Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat meeting.

Kyodo News reported on Thursday that Abe is not expected to visit the controversial Yasukuni Shrine for Japan’s four-day autumn festival that kicks off Saturday, apparently fearing it could derail efforts for talks with China and South Korea.

It added that the prime minister was making arrangements to meet Park on the sidelines of the trilateral meeting.

Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine in December 2012, which drew immense international backlash due to the fact it honors 14 Class-A war criminals. The trip further deteriorated already tense ties between Seoul and Tokyo over a slew of territorial and historical issues.

The last tripartite summit was held President Lee Myung-bak, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on May 14, 2012, in Beijing.

In the upcoming talks, Korea and Japan will be represented by their current heads of state, while China will send Premier Li Keqiang in place of President Xi Jinping.

If they do meet, Park and Abe are expected to discuss the newly concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership, historical and security issues, in particular, the denuclearization of North Korea.

On Wednesday, Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi met with Abe during a two-day visit to Japan.

The highest-ranking Chinese diplomat to make an official visit to Tokyo in recent years, Yang emphasized that Beijing was seeking to improve ties with Japan and promote a dialogue.

Japan will “make contributions to world peace on the basis of learning lessons from history,” Xinhua quoted the prime minister as saying.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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