Japan, S. Korea fail to mend fences

Kyodo

Ministerial-level talks between Japan and South Korea have failed to mend acrimonious ties strained by the Takeshima territorial dispute, differing interpretations of wartime history and the safety of Japanese fishery products in view of the nuclear disaster.

Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters that he and South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se on Thursday “agreed to hold dialogue at various levels” to boost bilateral relations, but omitted any mention of arranging a first meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Park Geun-hye.

Abe and Park next month will attend a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Bali, Indonesia, and the East Asia Summit in Brunei.

However, there is no prospect of them meeting bilaterally on the sidelines of either event.

At Thursday’s meeting, which was open to the press, Kishida said he asked Yun to reconsider the ban on imports of Japanese fishery produce that was sparked by the belated admission that radioactive water is being spewed into the Pacific by the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. Abe’s government argues that Seoul’s decision lacks scientific grounds.

Kishida told Yun that Tokyo will do its utmost to stem the discharge of contaminated water while disclosing more information on the issue, according to a senior government official who was at the meeting.

Yun simply repeated the reasons behind South Korea’s ban, the official said.

The South Korean minister meanwhile called for efforts by Japan to finally settle the issue of the “comfort women,” Japan’s euphemism for the thousands of Korean and other women coerced into sexual servitude by the Imperial Japanese military before and during World War II, the official said.

Kishida trotted out Japan’s standard response — that the victims have no right to demand redress under the terms of a 1965 bilateral treaty — and said Abe on many occasions had “expressed understanding for” their anguish, the official said.