The Korean government announced that there will be no summit talks between Japan and itself unless the latter shows a significant change in stance. The announcement was made in response to the Sankei Shimbun’s March 12 report that the Japanese government is planning on a summit meeting among the United States, Korea, and Japan in step with the Nuclear Security Summit scheduled for March 24 and 25 in the Hague.
“The Japanese government will have to deal with its past war crimes and the comfort women issue ahead of any summit meeting,” said a high-ranking official in the Korean government. Both countries have tried to ameliorate their bilateral relations since last month by means of working-level negotiations, but little progress has been made so far.
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Jo Tae-yong met with Akitaka Saika, Japan’s Vice Foreign Minister, on the same day in Seoul to clarify this point, too. The meeting was the first high-ranking meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in December last year. It is said that the two ministers had very different opinions as to the history issues.
The Korean government is planning to maintain its hard-line policy vis-à-vis Japan for a while. The general public is supporting the policy as well. According to a recent survey by the Asan Institute of Policy Studies, 65.8 percent out of the 1,000 respondents aged 19 or older think of Japan as a threat. The anti-Japan sentiment is on the rise, given that that percentage was 58.4 percent immediately before the Prime Minister’s visit to the shrine.
Still, the government is adjusting the pace, since US President Barack Obama, who visits Korea next month, is calling upon Korea and Japan to improve their relations. In the meantime, Katsunobu Kato, head of the Office of the Council of Ministers, had a press conference in the morning of that day and remarked that Japan is open to any dialogue. Experts are considering the remark as a way of shifting the responsibility for the tight relations as of late.