Seoul wary of holding bilateral talks with Japan at ASEAN meet


A senior South Korean official is reluctant to arrange a bilateral meeting with Japan’s foreign minister at the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meeting in Myanmar on Aug. 10, Yonhap News Agency reported.

The South Korean news agency quoted the official as saying Sunday that a decision can’t be made yet on the matter. The ARF is a security dialogue held by the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and their partners, including Japan, South Korea and China.

While noting that such a meeting would benefit Japan just by being held, the official said expectations would be high for South Korea to produce positive results, according to Yonhap.

The official thus indicated that South Korea is reluctant to hold a ministerial meeting with Japan out of concern over the political backlash it would face at home if it failed to win any concessions.

Relations between the two countries have been strained by history and territorial issues, including over the “comfort women,” mainly Koreans and other Asians who were forced to provide sex for Imperial Japanese troops before and during the war.

In three rounds of bilateral talks held earlier this year by bureau chief-level diplomats on the comfort women and other bilateral issues, the official stressed that Japan needs to make concessions, saying the talks will advance only if Japan takes a positive stance and proposes substantive measures, Yonhap reported.