• Compiled From Kyodo, Staff Reports

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The government is negotiating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to hold summits with the leaders of China and South Korea in late October, sources said Friday.

If meetings can be arranged, Abe will fly to Beijing to meet President Hu Jintao and to Seoul to talk to President Roh Moo Hyun, the sources said.

However, Beijing reportedly has not yet agreed to a meeting because of what it says is Abe’s ambiguous position toward the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo.

Seoul has also said there are obstacles to a summit, a senior Foreign Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. South Korea said there are three problems: prime ministerial visits to Yasukuni Shrine, the territorial row over the South-held islets known in Japan as Takeshima, and contentious history textbooks approved for use in Japan’s public schools.

Nevertheless, the official said both Japan and South Korea are willing to mend the chilly bilateral relationship, adding “we are heading toward a right decision.”

Beijing and Seoul had refused to hold summits with former Abe’s predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, in protest of his annual visits to Yasukuni.

Abe has indicated he will also visit the contentious shrine as leader, but said he would not speak publicly about it.

The new prime minister has pledged to hold meetings with his Chinese and South Korean counterparts, putting an end to their yearlong refusals to meet.

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