Park to hold summit with Obama, Abe next week

March 21, 2014
South Korean President Park Geun-hye will hold three-way talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will hold three-way talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye will hold three-way talks with U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the sidelines of an international nuclear conference in The Hague next week, an official said Friday.

The meeting, though not one-on-one, will mark the first formal talks between Park and Abe since they took office more than a year ago, and it signals a thaw in relations between Seoul and Tokyo that have frayed badly over issues related to Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.

“The foreign ministry will make a formal announcement in the afternoon with regard to the South Korea-U.S.-Japan summit that is supposed to take place in The Hague next week,” presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters. He did not elaborate.

Park has shunned a summit with Abe as Japan keeps angering South Korea with a series of nationalistic steps and remarks denounced as attempts to glorify its militaristic past and whitewash its wartime atrocities, including the country’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.

Relations between Seoul and Tokyo had been bad even before Park and Abe became leaders. Their meeting in the Dutch city would mark the first summit between the two countries in nearly two years, an unusually long break that shows how badly their ties have been strained.

Prospects for a meeting between Park and Abe have risen after Abe promised earlier this month to honor Japan’s two previous apologies for the colonial rule — known as the “Kono Statement” and the “Murayama Statement,” issued in 1993 and 1995, respectively.

Park welcomed Abe’s pledge, saying she hopes it will lead to better relations between the two sides. Speculation has since risen that the two leaders could meet either one-on-one or in a three-way summit with Obama on the sidelines of the upcoming nuclear conference in the Netherlands.

Improvement in relations between South Korea and Japan would resolve one of the U.S. headaches in Asia. Washington has pressured Seoul and Tokyo to come to terms with each other as it seeks to expand security cooperation with its Asian allies in part to keep a rising China in check.

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