Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida recently met Korean Ambassador to Japan Lee Byung-kee and proposed a summit between their leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Russia. President Park Geun-hye visited the U.S. in May and China in June this year, but the government says there are no plans yet for a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Korean presidents have traditionally made the rounds of the U.S., Japan and Russia after their inauguration, in that order. But not this time.
The Abe administration attempted several times to arrange a summit with Park. But the Park administration feels talks with Abe would be pointless as long as leading Japanese cabinet members continue to try to whitewash the country's wartime atrocities. That is probably why Kishida only suggested that the two leaders meet on the sidelines of the G20 meeting.
At present, chances are very slim that a summit will take place during the G20 summit. During her speech on Liberation Day last Thursday, Park urged Japanese politicians to show "courage to face the past and determination to care for another's pain," which is what the people of both countries want. Rather than criticize Japan, Park opted to appeal to the common sense of Japanese politicians and waited for their response.
But Abe the same day made things worse by breaking away from a 20-year tradition of Japanese prime ministers expressing remorse over their country's wartime aggression and pledging not to let it happen again when they mark the end of World War II. It would be impossible for Park to sit face to face with Abe under these circumstances. And it is appalling that Japan had the gall to propose a summit at this point. If it truly wants a summit, it must create at least the minimum conditions for it to happen.
Korea cannot sit idle at a time like this either. Like it or not, Japan is a strategic ally in Northeast Asia and in dealing with North Korea. Both countries must seek a solution to this impasse.