Japan’s daily Nihon Keizai Shimbun reported that the three countries had entered a “final coordination” phase to arrange the summit on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit to be held from March 24-25 in The Hague, Netherlands.
|Park Geun-hye, Barack Obama, Shinzo Abe (Yonhap)|
The report said South Korean President Park Geun-hye, U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may use the summit to reaffirm their security cooperation in the North Korean nuclear standoff, and to allow Park and Abe to have their first summit.
The newspaper, however, left open the possibility of Park rejecting the overture for the summit based on her persistent stance that there was no point in holding talks with Abe when there is no progress on historical issues.
Over the last year, Abe has repeatedly offered to hold talks with Park. But Park has turned down the offers as anti-Japanese sentiment increased due to Tokyo’s failure to fully atone for its imperial-era misdeeds and stepped-up claims to Korea’s easternmost islets of Dokdo.
In an apparent reconciliatory move, Abe expressed his intention last week to uphold past apologies for Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of Asian women and its colonial occupation of Asian states including Korea. The security hawk had earlier signaled his intention to “revise” the apologies.
Abe’s government has also put off announcing the result of its textbook qualification work from March 26 to early April, in an apparent move to avoid further angering Korea, which argues Japan whitewashes its wartime crimes in school textbooks.
During a parliamentary session on Tuesday, Abe also expressed his desire for a summit with Park.
“South Korea is one of the most important countries that share basic values and strategic interests,” he said. “If conditions are permitted, I would try to build a future-oriented relationship (with Seoul) at the Nuclear Security Summit.”
Should the tripartite talks be held, North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are expected to be on top of the agenda, observers said.
Washington has long urged its two Asian allies to put aside history and forge a forward-looking partnership. For the financially strained U.S., the triangular security cooperation is crucial to counter threats not only from the provocative regime in the North, but also from the increasingly assertive China.
By Song Sang-ho (email@example.com)