SEOUL: South Korea said Monday it had offered Japan a long-awaited leadership summit that would mark a major conciliatory step towards improving relations after an extended period of diplomatic rancor and mistrust.
A spokeswoman for the presidential Blue House said the South had proposed a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-Hye on the side of a trilateral leadership meet being held with China in Seoul next week.
“We have made a proposal to hold the summit on November 2, but have not heard from Japan yet,” the spokeswoman told AFP.
If the summit goes ahead, it will cap a series of moves in recent weeks by Seoul and Tokyo towards a rapprochement — prompted and pushed by their mutual military ally, the United States.
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 “comfort women” forcibly recruited to work in Japanese wartime military brothels.
Since taking office in February 2013, Park has repeatedly refused to meet one-on-one with Abe, arguing that Tokyo has yet to properly atone for its past actions.
The rift has frustrated Washington, which would prefer its two key Asian allies to focus together on containing an increasingly assertive China.