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Seoul hints at mending ties with Tokyo

August 25, 2014
South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, as US President Barack Obama looks on before their trilateral meeting at the US Ambassador's Residence in the Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye, right, shakes hands with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, as US President Barack Obama looks on before their trilateral meeting at the US Ambassador’s Residence in the Hague, Netherlands, Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (AP)

Wartime sex slavery remains hurdle to Seoul-Tokyo summit

By Kang Hyun-kyung

Seoul officials have recently been cautiously but increasingly talking about a possible Korea-Japan summit, sending signals that such a meeting would be possible if Japan takes sincere measures to resolve the wartime sex slavery issue.

President Park Geun-hye was quoted last week as encouraging Yoo Heung-soo, the new Korean ambassador to Japan, to play a role in moving a nuclear safety proposal involving China and Japan forward.

President Park initially made the three-party proposal during a Liberation Day speech on Aug. 15, noting that nuclear safety, if not properly handled, would pose a grave threat to East Asia which houses many nuclear power plants.

She invited the United States, Russia, North Korea and Mongolia to join the regional initiative.

While presenting a credential letter to the new envoy in the presidential office Thursday, Park reminded Yoo that next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between the Korea and Japan.

Hours after the meeting with the President, Yoo, 76, mentioned a “conditional” Seoul-Tokyo summit to foreign ministry reporters.

He characterized current relations as the worst ever, stressing that something has to be done to improve ties.

“The leaders of South Korea and Japan must meet for a summit,” Yoo said.

He noted that the ball is in Japan’s court, saying Tokyo remaining unrepentant on the “comfort women” issue remains a major hurdle to the staging of a summit.

Once Japan makes a dedicated effort to apologize to, and compensate, the wartime victims, the ambassador said he is optimistic about a summit.

President Park’s selection of Yoo in July fueled speculation that the Park government was trying to get relations with Japan back on the right track.

The former three-term lawmaker had led the Korea-Japan Friendship Association as chairman before he was called upon to serve as Korean ambassador, and reportedly has an extensive network with key Japanese officials.

Last week, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se also mentioned a potential Korea-Japan summit during a television debate.

“We didn’t say there would not be any summit between South Korea and Japan. What we are saying is that we would consider it if Japan takes sincere measures for wartime sex slaves,” the foreign minister said.

Following that, there was a media report that President Park and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might meet for a summit in November on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit.

But Foreign Minister Yun denied that.

Quoting a diplomatic source, TV Chosun reported that South Korea and Japan are working on the wartime sexual slavery issue to achieve a breakthrough no later than October.

South Korea and Japan are scheduled to hold a fourth round of director general-level talks on wartime sex slaves later this month. Previous meetings found that there are deep gaps between the two sides regarding the matter.

If the talks turn out to be successful, some analysts say the talks could be a turning point in strained Korea-Japan relations, which took a turn for the worse when Abe paid a visit to Yasukuni Shrine last December.

Several class-A war criminals were enshrined there. Following the visit, the Japanese leader drew condemnation from neighboring countries as well as the United States.

One Comment

  1. yosi mas

    August 26, 2014 at 6:43 PM

    http://iamkoream.com/comfort-women-for-u-s-military-sue-south-korean-government/
    COMFORT WOMEN FOR U.S. MILITARY SUE SOUTH KOREAN GOVERNMENT.
    Remember ‘Yanggongju’!
    America forces were holding the Koreans sex slave of 500,000 people!
    America apologized to South Korea!

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