A trilateral summit between China, Japan and Korea will take place in Japan next week, it was announced on Tuesday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters in Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday that Tokyo will host the summit – the first such event for three years – on May 9, and discussion will focus primarily on North Korea.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and South Korean President Moon Jae-in will join Abe.
“We would like to talk about how to settle the North Korean abduction, nuclear and missile issues in a comprehensive manner and bring a bright future,” Abe said at the press conference in Jordan, agencies reported.
The abduction of Japanese citizens by Pyongyang’s intelligence agencies in the 1970s and ’80s is a high-profile issue in Japan, and a key agenda item for any Japanese prime minister whenever the issue of North Korea arises.
News about the summit was also released by South Korea’s presidential Blue House late on Tuesday. The summit is expected to provide Moon with an opportunity to brief his Chinese and Japanese counterparts on developments and possibilities following last week’s inter-Korean summit, and prior to the North Korea-US summit expected late this month or in early June.
Other issues to be addressed, according to the Blue House, are energy development, environmental protection and cooperative grounds for prosperity in Northeast Asia.
Japan-Korea ties still shaky
Following the tripartite meeting, Moon and Abe will have a bilateral summit. Ties between the two are personally uneasy, particularly given historical controversies. The liberal Moon has urged Abe to apologize, once again, to the comfort women, following his landmark 2015 apology.
A standoff is currently underway in South Korea’s second city of Busan, where unionists and activists are attempting to erect a statue, outside the Japanese consulate, of a laborer forced into service during Tokyo’s colonial rule on the peninsula from 1910-1945. But police have, so far, prevented them from doing this.
A statue of a comfort woman, also emplaced by civic activists, already stands outside the consulate. It was erected in December 2016 at a time when Korea’s government was paralyzed by massive protests against then-President Park Geun-hye, with the agreement of local authorities. But the move angered Japan, which recalled its ambassador for three months in 2017.
A comfort woman statue also stands outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, where it is the site of weekly protests, and has been a source of diplomatic friction.
In a bilateral agreement with President Park in December 2015, Abe issued an apology, and Tokyo offered reparations to Korean comfort women who are still living, in the expectation that the statue outside its embassy in Seoul would be removed.
While the majority of victims accepted the payouts, some did not and civic activists have lambasted Abe for being personally insincere, and for issuing the apology in a format that was not appropriately formal.