China, Japan and South Korea are considering holding their first trilateral summit in three years, offering a potential stage for the first one-on-one meeting between Tokyo and Seoul’s leaders, the Nikkei business daily reported on Saturday.
The talks would resume cooperation among East Asia’s three biggest economies that had been on hold since 2012 because of territorial disputes and what Seoul and Beijing see as Japan’s reluctance to confront its wartime past.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida are expected to confirm this weekend the leaders’ intentions to hold the summit, the Nikkei said. Yun is visiting Tokyo for the first time in four years on Sunday.
The summit could take place between September and November in South Korea, the Nikkei said, and offer a stage for a first bilateral meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye since taking office in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Seoul-Tokyo relations have been long-strained by a feud over “comfort women” forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels. The dispute has complicated efforts to boost security cooperation between the two, both staunch U.S. allies, as the region copes with an unpredictable North Korea and an assertive China.
As Japan and South Korea near their 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties, the two are sending conflicting signals over whether they can resolve the comfort women dispute.
For their part, Sino-Japanese ties remain frayed but have seen a thaw since Abe met Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time last November and again in April.
Relations have been long strained by China’s bitter memories of World War Two, and a dispute over a chain of uninhabited islets in the East China Sea.
Japan has adopted a more muscular security stance since Abe took power in 2012, leading to concerns among regional neighbors that the country is returning to its militarist past.
But Japan’s Kishida reaffirmed the country’s pacifism in a speech in Tokyo on Saturday.
“We have walked the path of a peace-loving nation, with feelings of remorse, and resolved to keep the peace and never to wage a war again,” he said.
(Reporting by Thomas Wilson; Editing by Nick Macfie)