The first formal meeting between Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye — which took place in a trilateral setting along with U.S. President Barack Obama — may be a positive step for repairing Tokyo-Seoul ties. But Abe and Park need to follow that up with a bilateral summit as quickly as possible by judiciously handling the historical and territorial issues that have strained the relationship.

The talks held on Tuesday in The Hague, after the three leaders took part in the Nuclear Security Summit, had reportedly been brokered by the United States in a bid to set the stage for thawing the political ice between its key Asian allies before Obama's scheduled visit to the two countries in April.

An unusual situation continues between Japan and South Korea as their top leaders have not met on their own despite more than a year passing since they took office. The last official meeting between Japanese and South Korean leaders was May 2012 during talks in Beijing between Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, of the previous Democratic Party of Japan-led administration, and Park's predecessor, Lee Myung-bak. The very fact that Abe and Park needed the U.S. president as an intermediary underscores the seriousness of the current chill in Tokyo-Seoul ties.