WASHINGTON: South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Thursday said she would be open to meeting her Japanese counterpart, a long-avoided summit that could help mend troubled relations between two key US allies in Asia.
During a visit to Washington, Park said she was willing to hold a first formal meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, following a string over disagreements over the legacy of World War II.
“As to the question about holding a bilateral summit with Prime Minister Abe, I do feel that I can have such a meeting with him,” Park said in an address at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“But in order for such a meeting to be significant, it is important that the two countries be able to move towards a more future oriented change in our relationship.”
Her comments come on the eve of a meeting with US President Barack Obama, who has been eager to see the two US allies reconcile.
Park and Abe have met on the sidelines of multilateral events, but have yet to sit down in a formal head-to-head.
South Korea accuses Tokyo of not taking responsibility for Imperial Japan’s war time treatment of Koreans.
Park in August said that a much awaited speech by Abe on the 70th anniversary of the war fell short leaving “much to be desired.”
Abe has expressed remorse, but has not formally apologized for Japan’s militaristic past.
In a televised address to the nation, Park stressed that Japan needed to resolve — as soon as possible — the issue of the former sex slaves.
The so-called “comfort women” issue is an emotional one in South Korea, where fewer than 50 of the thousands of women coerced into prostitution remain alive.
South Korea insists Japan has yet to fully atone for the suffering the comfort women endured, and should offer further reparations.
Japan says the matter was settled in the 1965 bilateral agreement that restored diplomatic ties between the two nations, which saw Tokyo make a total payment of $800 million in grants or loans to its former colony.