Tokyo-Seoul, dialogue on certain conditions
by Theresa Kim Hwa-young
South Korea's president is ready to renew contacts with Japanese leaders if they are sincere and stop visiting a shrine that honours Japanese war criminals.

Seoul (AsiaNews) – South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun "is ready to hold a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at any time should the new Japanese prime minister demonstrate 'sincere' attitudes towards resolving disputes between the two neighbours", a senior government official said in Seoul yesterday.

"If Japan shows sincere attitude toward resolving various factors that trigger conflicts, our basic stance is that the summit meeting can occur whenever it is possible," Lee Kyu-hyung, vice minister of foreign affairs and trade, told reporters in Seoul.

Abe is set to deliver a speech tomorrow in which he is expected to clarify his foreign policies.

The last summit took place last November when Roh met Junichiro Koizumi, then Japanese prime minister, who is considered one of the most unwelcome persons in Korea because of his frequent visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, which includes memorials to 14 Class A war criminals.

"We sincerely hope that Prime Minister Abe will learn lessons from what has transpired from Prime Minister Koizumi's administration,'' Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon said. "That means he should squarely address the legacy of past history, and then we are prepared to have all sorts high-level exchanges and meetings, including summit meetings.'"

Mr Ban spoke of his expectation for progress, citing a meeting he had with Abe in early August when he attended the funeral of former Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto.

At the funeral, Abe told Ban he would "humbly address this past history issue" and try his best to "to remove all misunderstandings".

However, so far the new Japanese leader has maintained an ambiguous stance on whether he will visit the shrine again as prime minister.