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Politics

Japan-South Korea frictions may throw wrench into talks

TOKYO -- Some in the Japanese government are concerned that long-standing issues with South Korea will hamper progress at a three-way summit including China later this year.

The Tokyo meeting will mark South Korean President Park Geun-hye's first visit to Japan since taking office. Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that nothing is negatively impacting the meeting and that the government is determined to proceed with preparations as scheduled.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold separate bilateral talks with Park during her stay. Tokyo is looking to seal a General Security of Military Information Agreement with Seoul, enabling the two sides to directly exchange defense-related intelligence.

Efforts toward signing such a pact were shelved in 2012 after Seoul requested a delay amid public pressure at home. But the North's nuclear testing and launches of long-range missiles drove the South to announce Thursday that it would resume talks. Working-level officials will meet here Tuesday.

In focus is the ability of Japan, the U.S. and South Korea to present a united front against the North. Although the opportunity is ripe for Tokyo and Seoul to strengthen defense ties, the door can just as quickly slam shut.

Some point to last year's agreement aiming to resolve the issue of wartime "comfort women." The Japanese government gave 1 billion yen ($9.53 million at current rates) under the deal to a foundation supporting the women. But a symbolic statue of a girl still sits in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, underscoring the possibility of gaps yet to be bridged.

South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday that the three sides are discussing the timetable for the summit. The government says it will remain consistent on important issues involving foreign policy and national security, but some in the South Korean media still have their doubts about the gathering.

(Nikkei)

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