Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday he would seek talks with leaders of China and South Korea at a regional economic summit in Indonesia despite strained ties.
“I want to seize on an opportune time to exchange views” with them, he told reporters before leaving for the APEC summit in Bali tomorrow and Tuesday. “I want to send a message that the door of dialogue is always open.”
Abe has not held formal talks with the Chinese and South Korean leaders since taking office in December last year. Tokyo’s ties with its neighbors have been strained by territorial disputes and the legacy of Japan’s 20th century wartime aggression.
However, Abe, a conservative hawk, had a handshake and a five-minute chat with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) on the sidelines of a G20 summit in St Petersburg last month.
The meeting was the first between leaders of the two countries since relations took a nosedive a year ago over the ownership of uninhabited islands, which has led to warnings of a possible armed confrontation.
Abe also had a brief stand-up chat with South Korean President Park Geun-hye in the Russian city during the G20 gathering.
Japanese media reports said last week that Abe’s hoped-for talks with Xi and Park in Bali might not materialize due to reluctance on the part of China and South Korea.
While in Indonesia, the Japanese prime minister is also to take part in top-level talks on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free-trade pact involving 12 countries, including Japan, the US and Australia.
US President Barack Obama has shelved his visit to APEC and to an East Asia summit in Brunei later this week, blaming the crisis at home over the US government shutdown.
“It is very unfortunate that President Obama cannot attend,” Abe said, adding he would make an “active contribution to help the [TPP] discussions move in a favorable direction toward a conclusion by the end of the year.”