NAYPYIDAW (Yonhap) ― South Korea‘s foreign minister will hold talks with his Japanese counterpart this weekend for the first time this year amid chilly bilateral relations beset by what Seoul sees as Tokyo’s historical revisionism, officials said Friday.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se is scheduled to meet with his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida on Saturday afternoon on the sidelines of the annual security forum hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, known as the ASEAN Regional Forum, according to Seoul‘s foreign ministry.
The two top diplomats may discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons program and other pending bilateral issues such as Tokyo‘s wartime sexual slavery, watchers said.
The planned meeting comes as bilateral relations have reached their lowest ebb in recent years due to Japan’s stance on historical grievances and its territorial claims to Seoul‘s easternmost islands of Dokdo.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been accused by neighboring countries of engaging in nationalistic historical revisionism.
Tokyo reviewed its landmark 1993 apology over its wartime sexual enslavement of Korean and other Asian women, angering Seoul and Beijing. Japan also decided to exercise its right to collective self-defense, a move to increase its military’s role.
Yun is not likely to have talks with new North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su-yong, but they could encounter each other during the security forum, officials noted. ARF is the sole multilateral forum in which North Korea participates annually.
Ri will make his debut at ARF, four months after becoming the North‘s top diplomat in April, with attention likely to be paid to whether Ri meets with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts.
The North’s diplomat is expected to arrive in Naypyidaw on Saturday after visiting Laos and Vietnam, according to officials.
Pyongyang is reportedly seeking to hold informal talks with Tokyo following their recent deal on the abduction of Japanese nationals by its agents decades ago.
In May, North Korea agreed to reinvestigate the fate of Japanese nationals that its agents kidnapped in the 1970s and ‘80s.
In return, Japan has decided to lift some of its unilateral sanctions on North Korea as Pyongyang plans to set up a panel for the probe.
A trilateral meeting among Seoul, Washington and Tokyo will take place late Saturday on the sidelines of the ARF meeting. South Korea and the United States are concerned Japan’s recent approaches to North Korea could hamper trilateral cooperation in curbing the North‘s nuclear weapons program.
Top diplomats from 26 Asia-Pacific countries and the European Union are likely to engage in intense diplomatic wrangling for ASEAN and security-related talks at the summit.
Yun is expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings with his counterparts from seven countries including the U.S., Japan, Mongolia and Pakistan. (Yonhap)