South Korean President Park Geun-hye has painted a bleak picture of South Korea’s current and future ties with Japan — a key ally in efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program.
In an interview with the BBC, Park suggested that a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be pointless given Tokyo’s refusal to apologize for Japan’s “past wrongdoings.”
Abuses carried out during Japan’s 1910 to 1945 colonial rule remain a source of deep anger and resentment in South Korea, particularly the treatment of women forced to work as “comfort women” in wartime Japanese military brothels.
Outrage at Japan’s perceived reluctance to show sincere remorse and offer adequate reparations has been compounded by a territorial rift over a crop of rocky islets in the Sea of Japan, which South Korea calls the East Sea.
“None of these cases have been resolved or addressed,” Park said in the interview broadcast yesterday ahead of an upcoming state visit to Britain.
“If Japan continues to stick to the same historical perceptions and repeat its past comments, then what purpose would a summit serve? Perhaps it would be better not to have one,” she said.
“If they continue to say there is no need for an apology and no need to acknowledge their past wrongdoings, then what good would it do?” she asked.
In recent months, the US has tried to seek a rapprochement between its two key military allies in Asia, but has made little progress.
The strain in Seoul-Tokyo relations is especially problematic at a time when the international community is struggling to build a consensus on dealing with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Speculation is growing of a possible return to six-party talks on the North, in which South Korea and Japan are both participants.
Their respective envoys on North Korea continue to meet for discussions, but analysts say a Park-Abe summit would be important in presenting a united front.
Park’s pessimism about a meeting followed an interview with France’s Le Figaro newspaper last week in which she held out the prospect of a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“If a meeting with Kim Jong-un is deemed necessary to peace and the development of inter-Korean relations, then I am open to it,” Park said, adding that Pyongyang must first show “sincerity” on denuclearization.