Summit reports distorted in Japan, says gov’t

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Summit reports distorted in Japan, says gov’t

The Japanese media’s coverage of the first summit between President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday is being criticized by the Korean government for being distorted and misleading.

The number of officials from the Foreign Affairs Ministry and presidential office told the JoongAng Ilbo that they found reports about the 100-minute encounter and quoting Japanese officials as bogus. One official went so far as to accuse the Japanese government of distorting the facts in an attempt to win over public sentiment.

“The Tokyo government is using the media, mindful of potential benefits from such false reports,” said one senior government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Another official expressed his concern that such reports could undermine the agreement in the summit to accelerate discussions to resolve longstanding historical disputes.

A case in point is a Tuesday report by the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun saying the Korean government yielded to Tokyo’s demand that the issue of the sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of Korean women in military-run brothels during World War II for Japanese soldiers be excluded from the summit.

In fact, Park and Abe spent nearly an hour exclusively talking about the issue of wartime sexual slaves, euphemistically called “comfort women,” which led to the agreement that the two sides would speed up efforts to resolve the issue.

The fact that Abe told reporters he had “frank” talks with Park about the comfort women upon his return to Tokyo underscored that the two leaders did discuss it seriously. In diplomatic parlance, “frank” usually refers to a heated discussion.

According to government officials in Seoul, it was Tokyo that insisted Seoul put the comfort women issue on the agenda for the summit.

Another Japanese daily, the Sankei Shimbun, reported on Tuesday that the Korean government told Japan a luncheon would follow the summit if Tokyo agreed to include in a joint statement that the two sides aimed to resolve the comfort women dispute by the end of this year. But Abe refused to specify a timetable, which prompted Korea to drop the luncheon, the report said.

Immediately after returning to Japan, Abe had a TV interview and said Park was surprised when he told her that he would be going to an ordinary restaurant for a luncheon after the summit. After his Blue House meeting with Park, Abe visited a restaurant in Insa-dong, central Seoul, and dined with his entourage.

A Blue House official said Abe was making an arbitrary interpretation, adding that Park just responded, “I see.”

An official of the Foreign Affairs Ministry said Seoul did not make a demand that the two resolve the comfort women dispute by the end of this year. “Therefore, we had no precondition for a luncheon,” the official added.

Another government official said it was Japan that wanted a luncheon for Abe after the summit. According to the official, who also asked for anonymity, Tokyo also wanted the summit to take place on Sunday following the three-way summit among leaders of Korea, Japan and China.

A report by the daily Asahi Shimbun on Tuesday, which said Japan asked Korea to remove a comfort woman statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, was also disputed by the official, who said the word statue was never uttered during the 100-minute talk.

The South Korean government has not officially responded to the distorted reports because it seeks to “keep momentum created from the first summit between the two leaders to continue to improve bilateral ties,” the official said.

BY YOO JI-HYE, KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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