President Park Geun-hye has given in to pressure to take part in a three-way summit with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The three are to meet on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague on March 24-25.
A government official on Wednesday said Washington expressed "very strong demands" for Korea and Japan to improve bilateral relations, which are chilled to near freezing over the Abe administration's attempts to whitewash Japan's World War II atrocities.
Seoul and Tokyo had been inching closer to a summit since Abe said on March 15 that his government wants to uphold a 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono admitting imperial Japan's wartime atrocities and acknowledging that the Imperial Army was involved, directly and indirectly, in the sexual enslavement of Asian women for troops.
Until then Abe had indicated that he wants to revise the Kono statement. The trilateral summit will be the first time since her inauguration that Park sits face to face with Abe.
"The three leaders will meet at the invitation of President Barack Obama and discuss their views on the North Korean nuclear issue and other global security concerns," the official said. "Due to the nature of the trilateral summit, the issue of Japan's past history cannot be put on the agenda." But Park may still insist on raising the issues in private.
Cheong Wa Dae officials are still against a one-to-one summit with Abe. Although the Japanese government has been making some small gestures to accommodate Korea, such as delaying the announcement planned for March 26 of revisions to school textbooks that reflect the Abe administration's lurch to the far right, Park feels these are fig leaves and mark no substantial departure from Abe's chauvinist positions.