+ A

Moon-Abe summit ‘difficult’ next week

Blue House blames ties strained by Supreme Court ruling
Nov 08,2018
On Wednesday, the Blue House said that it will be “difficult” to arrange a summit between President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan on the sidelines of next week’s multinational meetings given last week’s Supreme Court order that Japanese companies must compensate workers conscripted during colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

A senior presidential official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said arranging a summit on the sidelines of the upcoming Association of South East Asian Nations meetings in Singapore or during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea, both of which are scheduled for next week, was “rather difficult,” apparently due to bilateral relations that were strained when the Supreme Court ordered on Oct. 30 Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to pay 100 million won ($89,265) in compensation to each of four Korean victims of forced labor during Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, which ran for 35 years from 1910.

The court’s ruling drew an immediate backlash from Japan, which claims all compensations issues in relation to its 35-year colonial rule were settled with the 1965 Korea-Japan Claims Agreement. In the 1965 agreement, Tokyo provided an economic cooperation fund - $500 million in economic grants and loans given by Japan to the Korean government - in order to normalize the two countries’ diplomatic relations.

The Supreme Court said last month that the “Japanese government failed to acknowledge the illegality of its colonial rule and rejected in principle legal compensation for victims of forced labor” during the negotiations of the 1965 agreement.

Since the ruling, Japanese officials have not shied away from expressing disgruntlement, with Abe calling it “not acceptable according to international law,” and emphasizing that compensation had been completely resolved through the 1965 Treaty on Basic Relations.

The senior Blue House official said Japanese politicians “were not helping to resolve the situation.”

Kyodo News reported early Wednesday that a Japanese foreign ministry official said neither side proposed a Moon-Abe summit next week, apparently due to the ongoing diplomatic row.

While a Moon-Abe summit is very unlikely, the Blue House said Moon will have a summit with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia.

“During the multilateral summit events, [President Moon] will have bilateral meetings with his Russian and Australian counterparts to discuss ways to seek and widen potential areas of cooperation,” said Nam Kwan-pyo, the Blue House’s National Security Office’s second deputy director. He also said coordination was underway between Seoul and Washington to arrange a meeting between Moon and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who is attending in place of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Another senior official, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that Seoul and Beijing are “seeking” to hold a summit with Moon and President Xi Jinping of China next week.

Moon will embark on a six-day trip to two Asian nations on Tuesday. Moon will be in Singapore through Friday to attend the 20th Asean-Korea summit, the 21st Asean Plus Three summit (which also includes Korea, Japan and China) and the 13th East Asia Summit. Moon will attend the APEC summit in Papua New Guinea on Saturday and Sunday.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]