Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Japan, South Korean foreign ministers meet amid freeze in ties

The Nation - August 11, 2014

Japan and South Korea held rare talks on Saturday, diplomatic sources said, in a potential ice- breaking meeting following a collapse in relations.

US Secretary of State John Kerry meets Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida, left, and South Korea’s Foreign Minister Yun Byung Se at the Lake Garden Hotel during a trilateral meeting in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, yesterday.

Japan’s Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida met with his South Korean counterpart Yun Byung-se on the eve of a regional security dialogue in the Myanmar capital Nay Pyi Taw, Japanese diplomatic sources said.

“The meeting is over... it lasted over an hour,” a source who requested anonymity told AFP.

The last official meeting between the two foreign ministers was in September last year in New York.

A summit between the leaders of the two nations in March, brokered by US President Barack Obama, failed to dampen the rancour between the neighbours, which stems from disputes related to Japan’s 191045 rule over the Korean peninsula.

They include a territorial row over a tiny batch of rocky islets and Seoul’s demands for further reparations for Korean women – so called “comfort women” – forced to work as sex slaves in Japanese World War II military brothels.

Japan has long maintained that all issues relating to the colonial period were settled under a 1965 bilateral treaty that normalised diplomatic ties with South Korea.

But in a sign of the depth of the antipathy on Tuesday, Seoul’s foreign ministry issued a statement branding Japan’s claim to the islands “ludicrous” and “unacceptable”.

The rift is a source of increasing anxiety for the United States, whose strategic “pivot” to Asia is on a more fragile footing with its two main military allies in the region barely on speaking terms.

Both Japan and South Korean ministers were in Myanmar to attend yesterday’s Asean Regional Forum, an annual security dialogue.

The meeting has brought together foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and key partners, including China, India, Russia, the US and the European Union.

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