SEOUL – South Korean President Park Geun-hye is painting a bleak picture of current and future ties with Japan, even though Tokyo should be a key ally in Seoul’s efforts to rein in North Korea’s nuclear program.
In an interview with the BBC, Park suggested that a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be pointless given Japan’s refusal to apologize for its “past wrongdoings.”
Abuses carried out during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule remain a source of deep anger and resentment in South Korea, particularly the treatment of women forced to work as “comfort women” in wartime Japanese military brothels.
Outrage at Japan’s perceived reluctance to show sincere remorse and offer adequate reparations has been compounded by the territorial rift over the rocky islets in the Sea of Japan known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.
“None of these cases have been resolved or addressed,” Park said in the interview broadcast Monday ahead of her upcoming state visit to Britain. “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.
“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 asked.
In recent months, the United States has tried to seek a rapprochement between its two key military allies in Asia, but has made little progress.
The strain in relations is especially problematic at a time when the international community is struggling to build a consensus on dealing with North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Speculation is growing of a possible return to the six-party talks, in which South Korea and Japan are both participants.
Their envoys on North Korea continue to meet for discussions, but analysts say a Park-Abe summit would be important in presenting a united front to Pyongyang.
Park’s pessimism about such a meeting followed a separate interview with France’s Le Figaro newspaper last week in which she said the door remains open to a summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.