President Park Geun-hye said Sunday she agreed with the Japanese and Chinese leaders to make efforts for peace and stability in Northeast Asia by facing up to history.
South Korea, China and Japan are close trade partners, but tensions still persist between South Korea and Japan and between China and Japan over territorial and history-related issues.
“In the spirit of facing history squarely and advancing towards the future, we agreed to make efforts for the realization of regional peace and stability,” Park said in a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang following the summit.
The meeting represents the resumption of a trilateral summit, which had been suspended since 2012 due to a territorial dispute between China and Japan, as well as Japan’s attempts to whitewash its wartime atrocities and colonial occupation.
“The normalization of the trilateral cooperative system is a big step toward peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia,” Park said.
Li also said they agreed to properly address history and other sensitive issues.
It remains unclear whether the latest agreement would help resolve the issue of former South Korean sex slaves for Japan’s World War II soldiers.
Seoul-Tokyo relations remain badly frayed largely because of Japan’s refusal to atone for its past wrongdoings stemming from its colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910-45. One of the key pending issues is a demand by former Korean sex slaves for an apology and compensation from Japan.
Japan has so far refused to comply with the demand, insisting that the so-called “comfort women” were recruited by civilian profiteers and its wartime military-led government was not directly involved.
Park is set to meet with Abe one-to-one on Monday — the first bilateral summit between leaders of the two neighbors in more than three years.
The three leaders also vowed to make efforts for a quick resumption of the long-stalled talks on ending North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
“We decided to make joint efforts to resume meaningful six-party talks at an early date,” Park said.
The comment came amid no sign of progress in resuming the talks that were last held in 2008. The talks also involve the US and Russia.
North Korea has rejected international pressure to abandon its nuclear program and vowed to develop its economy and nuclear arsenal in tandem.
The three countries also said in a joint statement after the summit that they “oppose any action that may cause tension on the Korean Peninsula or violate relevant UN Security Council resolutions.”
Japan and China to mend ties
Japan and China agreed on Sunday to restart mutual visits of their foreign ministers and hold bilateral high-level economic dialogue early next year, a Japanese senior government spokesman said, as ties between Asia’s two biggest economies warm.
Abe and Li also agreed the two countries would work toward an early implementation of communication mechanisms between their military forces, Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda told reporters following a meeting between Abe and Li in Seoul.
“At the outset of the meeting, they agreed that ties between Japan and China are on a recovery trend, but that the momentum should be strengthened further,” Hagiuda said.
Sino-Japanese relations, haunted by the legacy of Japan’s World War Two aggression and conflicting claims over a group of East China Sea islets, have thawed a little since Abe met Chinese President Xi Jinping twice since last November.
A Chinese foreign ministry statement cited Li as telling Abe that while relations were getting back on track, the road ahead remained challenging.
“I hope the Japanese side practices a positive China policy and meets China halfway to promote the continued stable development of bilateral ties,” the statement paraphrased Li as saying.
China hopes Japan can genuinely reflect on its history and understand how important the issue is to the feelings of Chinese people, he added.
“China will unswervingly stick to the path of peaceful development and hopes that Japan continues to go down the same path and that (Japan) does more to benefit regional peace and security on matters of the military and security and respects the concerns of its Asia neighbors,” he added.