Door to dialogue with S. Korea, China open: Aso

Kyodo

Finance Minister Taro Aso indicated Tuesday he would like to help improve relations with China and South Korea, emphasizing the major economic role the three countries play in Asia.

While Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent visit to Yasukuni Shrine stoked the animosity between Japan and its two neighbors, “our basic stance is that the door for dialogue is already open,” Aso said at his first news conference of the year.

Given that Japan, China and South Korea have a great influence on the Asian economy, “we have to maintain decent relations with each other,” added Aso, who is also deputy prime minister.

His remarks came as lawmakers in the Liberal Democratic Party-New Komeito ruling bloc have been calling on the government to mend ties with the two countries.

Abe has failed to hold a summit with the leaders of China and South Korea since he took office on Dec. 26, 2012. They cite his hawkish policies.

Akihiro Ota, minister of land, transport, infrastructure and tourism and a lawmaker New Komeito, said at a separate news conference that 2014 will be an “important year” for resuming amicable relations with China and South Korea.

“I hope many foreigners will visit Japan as dialogue will be promoted through tourism,” he said.

New Komeito Secretary-General Yoshihisa Inoue, meanwhile, said during a meeting between the government and the ruling camp Tuesday that the Abe administration should “make a concrete step toward improving relations with neighboring countries.”