The leaders of Korea, China and Japan sat side-by-side at the ASEAN+3 conference in Brunei on Thursday, but no three-way communication took place and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was left out in cold.
President Park Geun-hye sat flanked by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Abe, since Korea is the chair country of the "plus three" countries.
They arrived at the conference hall separately. At a joint photo session of the 13 leaders of the ASEAN+3 member nations just before the start of the conference, Park was flanked by the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah and again Abe. But a Cheong Wa Dae official said Park and Abe "were not seen exchanging a single word throughout the conference."
However, Abe did appear to aim some remarks in the direction of Korea, insisting that fisheries and other food products from Japan are "safe" despite massive contamination from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, and urged other countries to ease or lift import restrictions on "scientific grounds," according to Kyodo News.
Although he did not specifically mention Korea, he appears to have targeted Seoul, which banned imports of food products from the eight prefectures surrounding Fukushima.
Park told ASEAN+3 leaders that the "Asian paradox," or the yawning disconnect between growing economic interdependence on the one hand and chilly diplomatic ties and poor security cooperation, results from a "lack of mutual trust" between countries in Northeast Asia. She called for increased cooperation between Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo and proposed to discuss "flexible" issues first to build a framework of trust.
She had an amicable meeting with the Chinese premier as well as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the sidelines. Park discussed follow-up bilateral economic pacts with Li and talked about the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula with Kerry.
Cheong Wa Dae did not reveal details of their discussions.
After the conference, Park flew to Jakarta for a meeting with her Indonesian counterpart Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.