S. Korea, Ja­pan to hold se­cu­rity talks, first in 5 years

The China Post - - SPORTS -

South Korea and Ja­pan will next week hold their first high-level se­cu­rity talks in more than five years, Seoul said Fri­day, de­spite sim­mer­ing ten­sions over ter­ri­to­rial and other his­tor­i­cal dis­putes.

The so-called “2+2” talks will take place in Seoul next Tues­day be­tween se­nior for­eign min­istry and de­fence min­istry of­fi­cials from both sides.

The re­sump­tion of the dia­logue — last held in 2009 — hints at a slow thaw in prac­ti­cal diplo­matic con­tacts de­spite a glacial rift in the over­all re­la­tion­ship.

“At the talks, the first in more than five years, they will dis­cuss de­fence and se­cu­rity poli­cies and co­op­er­a­tion, re­gional se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tions and other mat­ters of mu­tual con­cern,” the South Korean for­eign min­istry said in a state­ment.

Mean­while, Ja­panese me­dia re­ported the two gov­ern­ments were work­ing to ar­range a de­fence min­is­ters’ meet­ing.

Re­spond­ing to ques­tions in Tokyo, De­fense Min­is­ter Gen Nakatani noted there had been no such meet­ing for nearly four years.

“It would be mean­ing­ful to hold talks at an early time and ex­change frank views,” he said.

Fri­day’s an­nounce­ment came at the end of a week of ac­ri­mo­nious ex­changes over a set of new so­cial stud­ies text­books in Ja­panese ju­nior high schools.

Seoul called in the Ja­panese am­bas­sador to protest af­ter Tokyo’s ed­u­ca­tion min­istry said all the text­books would as­sert Ja­panese own­er­ship of two sep­a­rate is­land groups at the cen­tre of dis­putes with China and South Korea.

The row be­tween Seoul and Tokyo over a tiny set of South Korean-con­trolled islets has rum­bled on for decades, in tan­dem with highly-emo­tive dis­putes re­lated to Ja­pan’s 1910-45 colo­nial rule over the Korean penin­sula.

Bei­jing and Tokyo have sim­i­lar is­sues and the dis­putes are be­ing high­lighted as the re­gion pre­pares to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of World War II.

The for­eign min­is­ters of South Korea, China and Ja­pan held talks in Seoul last month and pledged to work to­wards a tri­lat­eral lead­er­ship sum­mit at “the ear­li­est” op- por­tu­nity, but ob­servers say such a meet is un­likely in the short term.

South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping have al­ready held two fruit­ful bi­lat­eral sum­mits.

But Park has re­fused to sit down one-on-one with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, while Xi has only man­aged a brief meet­ing with Abe on the side­lines of an APEC gath­er­ing in Bei­jing last year.

The rift be­tween Seoul and Tokyo is par­tic­u­larly dis­turb­ing for the United States, which wants its two key mil­i­tary al­lies in Asia to be united in the face of an in­creas­ingly as­sertive China.

U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary Ash­ton Carter is cur­rently in Seoul wrap­ping up a visit to both coun­tries.

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