World / Opinion

Park-Abe summit seen as chance to look to future

By CAI HONG (China Daily) Updated: 2015-11-02 07:27

The first one-on-one talk between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Republic of Korea President Park Geun-hye on Monday-the first Japan-ROK summit since May 2012-is expected to result in little of substance, but will have a large symbolic impact by signaling the start of reconciliation in East Asia, an Japanese observer said.

Yuki Asaba, an expert in Korean affairs at University of Niigata Prefecture, told Japan Times that relations between the two countries will continue to be difficult, and Japan should get used to the "new normal".

In Japan's eyes, Park has chosen China as a new strategic partner because of its rapidly growing economic and diplomatic presence. China is the ROK's No 1 export destination, accounting for as much as 25.4 percent of shipments in 2014.

The ROK counts heavily on exports, which contribute to half of its gross domestic product. Its exports and imports with China have expanded rapidly, surpassing those with Japan for the first time in 2003 and those with the US in 2004 in terms of value, according to Japan Times.

The Abe-Park meeting may not be cozy. The ROK announced that it would host neither a dinner banquet nor luncheon for Abe. Japanese experts say they believe the unusual snub underlines the lack of trust between Abe and Park.

Nihon Keizai Shimbun said the ROK has differentiated between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Abe. The ROK's Foreign Ministry noted that Li is making a state visit, while Abe is not.

Park responded to questions in a written interview with Japanese media before Sunday's three-way summit between the ROK, Japan and China.

She said now is the time for the two countries-based on correct historical understandings-to overcome their negative history and mark a turning point toward a new future.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic ties between Japan and the ROK, but the relationship has been bumpy. Park said she hoped her talk with Abe would be an opportunity to start the development of a stable relationship with Japan.

She highlighted the issue of the "comfort women"-women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military before and during World War II-as an important area of concern and hoped for closure this year. She has urged Tokyo to make a proposal to resolve the issue so that the two nations can move forward and benefit from more positive relations.

Eight former comfort women died this year, leaving only 47 survivors in the ROK.

Park asked Japan to contribute to peace and development in Northeast Asia in a future-oriented manner.

It is important to increase mutual trust and cooperation among the three countries, with a spirit of "squarely facing up to history and taking a future-oriented stance", and to develop a cooperative system that will bring about a new order of peace and cooperation in the region, she said.

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