Comfort women, other ‘issues of mutual concern’ on agenda
SEOUL: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye will hold a long-awaited summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week, with the sensitive issue of Korean “comfort women” on the agenda, officials said Wednesday.
It will be their first one-on-one meeting after an extended diplomatic freeze, during which Park turned down repeated requests to sit down with Abe.
A spokeswoman for the presidential Blue House said the summit would take place in Seoul on Monday, on the sidelines of a trilateral leadership gathering with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.
Park and Abe will “exchange ideas on issues of mutual concern including the comfort women issue,” the spokeswoman said.
Relations between the two neighbors have never been easy — clouded by sensitive historical disputes related to Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula and, in particular, the issue of Korean women forcibly recruited to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.
Park’s previous refusals to meet Abe were predicated on her insistence that Tokyo had yet to properly atone for its past actions.
But she has come under increasing US pressure to compromise, with Washington wanting its two key military allies in Asia to focus less on the past and more on containing an increasingly assertive China.
Long diplomatic gap
The last summit was in December 2011 between the then-South Korean and Japanese leaders Lee Myung-Bak and Yoshihiko Noda.
The trilateral leadership meetings with China were initiated in 2008 and held annually until 2012 when they were suspended after Seoul-Tokyo relations went into one of their regular tailspins.
Seoul had gone public on Monday with its offer of a summit, but Tokyo was slow to respond, amid reports of behind-the-scenes bickering over how Japan’s wartime sex slavery might be addressed.