Laying her cards on the table, South Korean president Park Geun-hye said she saw no point in a summit with Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In an interview with the BBC, Park said a possible summit would only be undermined by Japan’s refusal to apologize for its wartime “wrongdoings,” highlighting a deep rift between the two nations.
Since taking office eight months ago, Park has yet to meet her Japanese counterpart amid long-standing territorial and historical issues that have marred talks of a summit, including outrage at Japan’s perceived reluctance to show sincere remorse for its repressive colonial rule, particularly the treatment of women forced to work as “comfort women” during the war, and its assertiveness in a territorial row over a crop of rocky islands in the Sea of Japan have strained bilateral relations.
“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,” Park told the BBC ahead of a visit to the UK.
“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 said that she considers Japan a key ally in efforts to rein in North Korea’s growing nuclear capability.
“I look to Japan as a very important partner with whom we have a lot to work on together and I hope we can look forward to improved relations. But sadly, the fact is there are certain issues that complicate that from happening,” Park said.
On dealing with North Korea, Park was more forgiving and held out the prospect of a summit with 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 demonstrate “sincerity” on the issue of denuclearization.
Park vowed to seek greater engagement with North Korea but reiterated its stance against its belligerent neighbor.
“North Korea’s actions and their behavior are very disappointing because they have not honored their promises,” she said.
“We cannot repeat the vicious cycle of the past where North Korea’s nuclear threats and provocations were met with rewards and coddling, and then followed by renewed provocations and threats.”
“We must sever that vicious cycle,” Park told the BBC.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: Republic of Korea/Flickr