Japan, South Korea plan first Noda-Lee summit since Takeshima row erupted

Kyodo

Preparations are under way for Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and South Korean President Lee Myung Bak to hold a formal summit later this month, their first such meeting since a rekindled territorial clash soured bilateral ties in August, government sources said Saturday.

Tokyo and Seoul are arranging a one-on-one meeting between Noda and Lee on the sidelines of a series of meetings related to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Phnom Penh from Nov. 18 to 20, the sources said.

Both governments are working to realize the summit in a bid to improve relations that were rocked by Lee’s Aug. 10 trip the South Korea-controlled — and Japan-claimed — Takeshima islets, the first trip to the rocky outcroppings by a South Korean president, according to the sources.

The envisioned encounter between the two leaders will be more substantive than a brief informal meeting and will allow them to hold their first in-depth talks since a meeting in May in Beijing, they added.

According to one of the sources, Seoul is apparently hoping that staging talks between Noda and Lee ahead of South Korea’s presidential election in December will prompt further bilateral discussions on improving ties after the race’s outcome.

Japan has long disputed the sovereignty of what it calls the Takeshima Islands, which it claims fall under the jurisdiction of Shimane Prefecture. But South Korea, which refers to the islets as Dokdo, has administered them since the 1950s. They are located in rich fishing grounds in the Sea of Japan, about 157 km northwest of Shimane’s Oki Islands and roughly 90 km southeast of South Korea’s Ulleungdo Island.

Tokyo and Seoul are also at odds over the long-standing issue of Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during the war.