Alexa

Japanese leader to hold summits with China, South Korea

Japanese leader to hold summits with China, South Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday he hoped to develop stronger ties with China and South Korea during his trip next month to the two countries, as he tries to repair relations with Japan's neighbors amid fears of a possible North Korean nuclear test.
Hiroshi Suzuki, deputy Cabinet secretary for public relations, said Abe would visit Beijing on Oct. 8 and Seoul on Oct. 9. South Korea and China confirmed the visits.
Suzuki said Abe planned to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing, and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun in Seoul.
"I plan to establish a future-looking relationship with the two countries by discussing our future in a candid manner," Abe told a group of reporters at his office late Wednesday. "If we can also show each other our views and discuss how we can work together for the region and the rest of the world, it would be a great accomplishment."
The meetings, which mark an early success in Abe's oft-stated aim since taking office last week to improve ties with other Asian countries, follow North Korea's announcement on Tuesday that it could test a nuclear weapon.
The leaders are expected to discuss North Korea's latest nuclear threat, as well as bilateral issues "to overcome political difficulty that exists with both countries," Suzuki said.
"We feel this is quite significant for Prime Minister Abe to visit both China and South Korea soon after taking office," Suzuki said. "It will surely lead to further strengthening of ties of trust and future-looking relations."
Tokyo has been at odds with both China and South Korea over territory, and over interpretations of Japanese wartime history.
Japan and China are also feuding over the rights to gas deposits in the East China Sea.
Amid deteriorating relations, the leaders of Japan and China haven't met since April 2005, and their last full summit was in 2001. The leaders of Japan and South Korea haven't met since November 2005.
Abe, a nationalist who favors a more assertive Japanese foreign policy, also apparently succeeded in clinching the summits without publicly declaring that he would not visit the Yasukuni war shrine, which is reviled by both China and South Korea.
"I believe it was possible as each of us decided that it's time to walk toward the future," he said.
Abe said he planned to acknowledge to the two leaders Japan's past aggression and its postwar commitment to peace and democracy. He would also try to convince China and South Korea to avoid using the shrine as a political and diplomatic issue, Abe said, adding that it was his personal wish to mourn and respect the country's war dead.
Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, visited the shrine six times in his five years in office, enraging Beijing and Seoul to the point where they refused to meet with him unless he promised not to go to the shrine.
Abe, a firm supporter of the shrine, reportedly prayed there in April, but has refused to confirm that visit or to say whether he would go as prime minister. Unlike Koizumi, he did not pledge to visit during his campaign.
The North Korean nuclear announcement, however, illustrated the need for cooperation among the countries in the region to maintain stability. Japan, China and South Korea are part of the stalled six-party talks on dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear weapons program.