If South Korea and Japan make any progress in their stalled negotiations over the wartime sexual slavery issue, it could open the door to a summit meeting between their leaders, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said Sunday.
The remarks come ahead of a trilateral summit of President Park Geun-hye and her Japanese and Chinese counterparts, Shinzo Abe and Xi Jinping, which will likely take place later this month or early next month.
South Korea and Japan have yet to decide whether Park and Abe would use the get-together to hold their first bilateral summit in more than three years.
"If there is headway on the issue of the Japanese army's comfort women or things like that, I think this would foster a better situation," Yun said during his appearance for a local news program on broadcaster KBS, referring to the prospect of a summit between Park and Abe.
"At this moment, diplomatic efforts are on the hosting of the Korea-China-Japan summit and any bilateral summits like one between South Korea and Japan should have more discussions," the top diplomat noted.
The comfort women negotiation is not a precondition for the leaders' summit, but it would still be very helpful to successfully arranging one, Yun highlighted.
"From a broader perspective, South Korea is open to hold summit meetings with any country," he added.
Since its launch in April 2014, the bilateral negotiation on compensating South Korean women who were sexually enslaved by the imperial Japanese army during World War II has not make any meaningful headway.
Against this backdrop, Yun's remarks come as diplomatic pressure on the Japanese side to move ahead in the negotiation.
"Compared with the initial stage, there has clearly been some development," Yun said of the negotiations without specifying.
Currently, the negotiations are slightly stalled, but once it overcomes that stage it may gain pace, he noted.
Touching on North Korea's prospective launch of a long-range missile, Yun said that "no signs of imminence have been shown."
Still, the North's willingness for a launch looks unwavering as leader Kim Jong-un and some nuclear experts have vowed, he said.
If the North goes ahead with the launch, it will be followed by "additional important measures" on the basis of resolutions by the United Nations' Security Council, the foreign minister noted, adding that "countries with like minds are already discussing the content, timing and scope of" the measures.
Countermeasures on such North Korean provocations will also be the focus of discussion when President Park Geun-hye holds a summit meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama on Oct. 16 in Washington. (Yonhap)