December 30, 2015 2:56 am JST
Tokyo-Seoul relations

US hails 'comfort women' accord; Japan eyes 3-way summit

NAOYA YOSHINO, Nikkei staff writer

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration showed its pleasure with America's two East Asian allies for vowing to resolve the issue of wartime "comfort women."

     "We applaud the leaders of Japan and the Republic of Korea for having the courage and vision to reach this agreement," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Monday, referring to South Korea by its official name.

     Stressing the promise to resolve the issue "finally and irreversibly," Kerry argued that the accord will help "improve relations between two of the United States' most important allies."

     "We support this agreement and its full implementation," National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in her own statement, driving home the point that Washington does not want to see the issue dredged up by future governments in Seoul or Tokyo.

     Looking to sustain the momentum, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government is floating the idea of a three-way meeting with President Barack Obama and South Korean President Park Geun-hye at a nuclear security summit here next spring. At the summit, Abe would likely call for closer trilateral cooperation on security in light of North Korea and other threats, as well as seek support for Japan's efforts to return victims of North Korean abductions.

     It would be the three leaders' first sit-down since March 2014, when Obama stepped in to broker a rapprochement between Japan and South Korea. More significantly, it would mark Abe's first face-to-face encounter with Park since Monday's comfort women agreement.

     The two-day nuclear security summit, an Obama initiative, is set to begin March 31. Abe has shown interest in attending, and Park is likely to be on hand as well. Their previous three-way meeting with Obama was held at last year's summit.

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