Abe Tells Park He Wants Japan-South Korea-China Summit With Xi

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he hopes for a summit with China and South Korea in a rare conversation with South Korean President Park Geun Hye after the funeral for Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore.

“I said, ‘recently we had a Japan, China, South Korea foreign ministers meeting due to the leadership of President Park Geun Hye. I hope we can push this to the level of a Japan, China, South Korea leadership summit,’ ” Abe told parliament Monday as he recounted his brief meeting.

Park has refused to hold a bilateral summit with Abe until he does more to atone for Japan’s wartime aggression and addresses the issue of so-called comfort women who were forced to serve in Japanese military brothels. The division between the U.S.’s biggest allies in the region comes at a time of growing tensions over China’s rise and the North Korean nuclear threat.

Abe has been lobbying to improve ties with Park and also China, which shares South Korea’s concerns about historical issues. The meeting of the foreign ministers of the three countries in Seoul on March 21 -- the first in almost three years -- is a sign that Abe’s efforts are yielding some results.

The foreign ministers agreed to seek a summit “at the earliest convenient time” and strengthen cooperation in disaster control and other areas. The leaders of the three nations last met in May 2012.

Historical and territorial disputes hinder progress in relations among the three neighbors that are East Asia’s biggest economies. China and South Korea will be watching Abe closely as he prepares to issue a new statement about Japan’s wartime past to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war in August. Abe has hinted he may water down previous expressions of remorse in the declaration, risking an angry response from his neighbors.

China was represented at Lee’s funeral by Vice President Li Yuanchao, not President Xi Jinping.

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