Park, Abe to Meet One-on-One Next Week

      October 29, 2015 09:48

      President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will sit down face to face for the first time next Monday, a day after they both meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at Cheong Wa Dae.

      The first Korea-Japan summit and the first trilateral summit in three-and-a-half years were finally announced Wednesday after days of bickering.

      Korea was apparently able to put the issue of women forced into sexual slavery by Japan during World War II on the agenda, which cleared the way for the meetings to be publicly announced.

      "Park and Abe are expected to discuss pending issues between the two countries, including sex slaves," said Kim Kyou-hyun, the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs and national security.

      "Through the talks, the leaders will seek ways to boost trilateral cooperation while holding in-depth discussions on the situation in Northeast Asia and international economic trends."

      It remains to be seen whether Park and Abe can iron out any of their differences over historical and territorial issues in one sitting since Abe heavily depends on his rightwing nationalist support base.

      His government has embarked on an extensive campaign to whitewash Japan's imperial and wartime atrocities and has ramped up colonial claims to Korea's Dokdo islets.

      "It's going to be a very tense summit," said one key Cheong Wa Dae official.

      The question of the former sex slaves has become symbolic of the deepening rift, with Tokyo insisting despite the evidence that the Imperial Army had no direct hand in rounding up the victims.

      "Officials from the two sides almost reached an agreement in talks ahead of the summit, but failed," a source said. Unless they do in the remaining days, Park and Abe are in for an uncomfortable meeting.

      Japan says all claims involving its World War II atrocities were settled by a lump sum payment when the two counties resumed diplomatic relations in 1965.

      Beijing is also none too keen on the Abe administration, which has reinterpreted Japan’s pacifist postwar constitution to allow troops to operate abroad and intensified territorial disputes.

      Abe has sided firmly with the U.S. in territorial disputes in the South China Sea, while Korea cannot afford to alienate the U.S. and requires Japan's support in getting North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapons.

      At the same time, Seoul needs to consider its relationship with Beijing, which has grown closer under the Park administration.

      "The top priority of the trilateral summit is reaching an agreement on peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula," a Cheong Wa Dae official said. "We are negotiating the inclusion of the North Korean nuclear issue in a joint declaration."

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