PM expects ‘certain outcomes’ with Abe
TOKYO — Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said Wednesday that his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today should produce some developments regarding the diplomatic and trade standoff between South Korea and Japan.
“There will be certain outcomes at tomorrow’s meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,” Lee said during an unscheduled press briefing in Tokyo, the same day.
Earlier, during talks with Japanese students at Keio University, he stressed that Seoul would continue to respect the 1965 treaty with Japan that normalized diplomatic relations between the two countries. While noting that there have been different interpretations of the agreement recently, he said, “Whenever the two have different views, we have resolved our problems through dialogue.” When asked about the move in Korea to boycott Japanese goods, which has negatively influenced the local economy, Lee said the Korean government was trying to create a distance between political and economic issues.
Lee’s remarks came a day before his 11:00 a.m. meeting with Abe at which he will deliver a handwritten letter from President Moon Jae-in. This is an apparent move to create an atmosphere conducive to a summit between the two leaders and improve ties between their countries.
The letter is expected to reiterate Moon’s stance of resolving the issue through dialogue, and clarify that his administration does not dispute the 1965 treaty. However, the Korean government has said it must respect the country’s top court rulings ordering Japanese firms to compensate Koreans forced to work for them during World War II, and that individuals can seek such recompense based on internationally recognized legal precedent.
Meanwhile, Lee briefly met Abe on the sidelines of a banquet held Tuesday evening to celebrate the coronation of Japanese Emperor Naruhito, but no meaningful conversation took place.
He also participated in a ceremonial dinner hosted by the Japanese prime minister and his wife at a hotel in Tokyo, Wednesday.
Lee had previously downplayed his meeting with Abe, saying it was unlikely to produce any concrete progress.
Stressing that his goal was to set the stage to boost discussion, he said “I can explain why Seoul cannot accept Tokyo’s claims amid our lingering differences on diverse issues, however, it is unlikely we will reach any agreement.”
“I presume that the meeting will help the two countries have serious dialogue in the future,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lee also met with several Japanese politicians to explain the Moon administration’s stance before the meeting with Abe.
Fukushiro Nukaga, who heads the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians’ Union and is a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan (LDP), told reporters that he and Lee discussed various measures concerning the Korean Supreme Court’s ruling on the forced labor issue.