By Yoo Seungki
SEOUL, March 21 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Park Geun- hye agreed Friday to sit down face-to-face with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe under the arbitration of U.S. President Barack Obama despite unsolved issues between Seoul and Tokyo over wartime history and territorial sovereignty.
Seoul's presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told a press briefing that the South Korea-Japan-U.S. summit will be held in The Hague, the Netherlands, accepting the widely-expected trilateral talks as fait accompli.
If held, it would be the first official meeting between Park and Abe since the two leaders took office more than a year earlier as Park has refused to meet one-on-one with Abe due to his wrong perception of history.
The three leaders will meet on the sidelines of the third Nuclear Security Summit, where global leaders will gather to discuss how to prevent nuclear terrorism and protect nuclear material for the coming Monday and Tuesday.
Chances for the summit became higher after Abe said last Friday that he and his cabinet will inherit the Kono and Murayama statements, or past apologies for the militaristic Japan's sex slavery and wartime aggression.
Park welcomed Abe's comments for the first time since her inauguration in February last year, but Seoul had stuck to its position that Japan's action to solve the "comfort women" issue should be required to make such summit possible.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young told a press briefing Tuesday that Abe's confirmation that his cabinet will make no revision to the Kono Statement itself cannot solve problems lying between the two countries.
The Kono Statement refers to an official apology made in 1993 by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, who acknowledged that Japan's imperialistic government was involved in the recruitment of more than 200,000 young women and forced them to serve in brothels.
South Korea has demanded the Abe cabinet's official apology and compensation for the "comfort women" victims. The comfort woman is a euphemism for young women coerced into sex slavery for the Japanese military brothels during the World War II.
A change in Seoul's position was seen after Russia accepted the Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as its territory Tuesday. South Korea's top presidential security advisor called the National Security Council meeting Wednesday afternoon to discuss whether to agree on the trilateral summit, which Japan hoped to hold.
The meeting used to be held every Thursday, but the emergency session was called Wednesday after Washington strongly called for Seoul to accept the trilateral summit, according to government officials cited by local media.
The United States may have wanted to make one voice with its two Asian allies about the Ukraine crisis by taking the opportunity of the nuclear summit. Washington called for improved relations between Seoul and Tokyo ahead of Obama's visit to the two Asian countries in April.
Strained ties between South Korea and Japan must have been a headache for the United States as it boosted uncertainties about a security alliance between the three allies and subsequently dented Obama's "pivot to Asia" policy.
During the upcoming talks, the three leaders are expected to discuss the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)'s nuclear weapons program and situations in Northeast Asia. Discussions would also be conducted on the crisis in Ukraine.
Historical issues will not be on the dialogue agenda as huge gaps remained between South Korea and Japan over various issues, including how to atone for comfort women, territorial sovereignty over a set of islets, called Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan, lying between the two countries. "If the summit is to be held, South Korea may benefit from its participation into international cooperation through the multilateral summit, while sending its message to Japan that the bilateral summit is left behind due to Japan's perception of history," Jo YangHyeon, professor at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy (KNDC), told Xinhua.
Jo said that Abe may have felt strong need for improved relations with South Korea and China as Japan has been isolated from the international community over the past 14 months due to the historical issues, forecasting Tokyo will pursue enhanced ties with China in the long term.
Japan not to revise statements over wartime wrongdoings: PM
TOKYO, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said here Friday that he and his cabinet will not revise Japan's apology for enslaving women in military brothels during the World War II.
Abe made the remarks during a Diet session, marking the first time that the right-leaning leader clarifies his attitude toward the 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. Full story
S.Korea makes positive reaction to Abe's stance change
SEOUL, March 15 (Xinhua) -- South Korean President Park Geun- hye on Saturday welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's confirmation that his cabinet will not revise the 1993 official apology for wartime sex slavery.
"It is relieved that Prime Minister Abe announced his position to inherit the Murayama and Kono statements now," presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters, quoting Park as saying. Full story