The Sun (Malaysia)

S. Korea-Japan summit ends diplomatic freeze


SEOUL: The leaders of South Korea and Japan broke an extended diplomatic freeze yesterday with a rare summit at which they agreed to push for swift resolution of historical disputes that have tainted ties for decades.

In particular, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said they would step up efforts to settle the thorny issue of socalled Korean “comfort women” forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

It was their first ever one-on-one meeting.

Park previously rebuffed all summit proposals, arguing that Tokyo had yet to properly atone for its wartime past and colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

While it was never likely to mend all the many broken fences between the two neighbours, the summit was seen as an important step towards a more pragmatic partnershi­p less encumbered by decades of rancour and bitterness.

Park began the meeting by stressing the need to “heal the wounds of the past” and the presidenti­al Blue House said their talks did not shy away from tough issues.

“The two leaders agreed to speed up consultati­ons to try to resolve the comfort women question as quickly as possible,” the Blue House said, adding Park had referred to the issue as the “biggest stumbling block” to friendly relations.

While Abe offered no new apology for Japan’s wartime past, he told reporters afterwards that both sides had an obligation to “not leave obstacles for future generation­s”.

Japan maintains that the comfort women issue was settled in a 1965 normalisat­ion agreement, which saw Tokyo make a total payment of US$800 million (RM3.4 billion) in grants or loans to its former colony.

The summit capped a series of moves in recent weeks – prompted and pushed by their mutual military ally the US – to normalise relations.

Park met Abe as he arrived at the Blue House and the two smiled as they shook hands before the talks began.

It was a contrast to previous meetings between the two at multilater­al events which had been studies in unsmiling, stony indifferen­ce, especially on Park’s part. – AFP

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