Abe calls for “frank” talks with China and S Korea

In Other News - January 20th, 2014
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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for “frank” talks with China and South Korea to address long-standing historical and territorial disputes that has frayed the nations’ relations.

“We should hold a meeting and have a frank discussion,” Abe said in an interview with Japanese broadcaster NHK.

Abe said a summit with China and South Korea was necessary to tackle the maritime territorial disputes, but added Tokyo would not agree to any concessions as a precursor to talks.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said that the leaders should try to “make efforts to solve” their disputes.

Abe’s remarks come on the heels of his controversial visit to the Yasukuni war shrine last month, fanning tensions with Beijing and Seoul. Both nations accuse the premier of showing lack of remorse for Japan’s wartime atrocities after his visit to the shrine, which commemorates 2.5 million soldiers, including 14 war criminals.

He defended his highly contentious visit on Sunday, saying he went there to make a pledge against war and to pray for those who lost their lives for their countries.

“I want people to think about whether this is wrong. If they think about it, I think the misunderstanding will go away,” he said.

Deteriorating ties and simmering tensions over territorial rows have prevented the three neighboring nations to hold any top-level meetings in the past.

Zhou Yongsheng, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University, said Beijing was unlikely to respond to Abe’s call for talks.

“Abe said he wants a dialogue because the international community is critical of the shrine visit,” he said. “By calling for a dialogue, Abe is sending a signal that he has expressed his sincerity, but China and South Korea have rejected him.”

Japan and China recently compared each other to the Harry Potter series’ Lord Voldemort in their latest exchange of barbs, highlighting the bitter animosity between the two Asian economies.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: CSIS | Center for Strategic & International Studies/Flickr