The leaders of South Korea, Japan and the United States are seen likely to hold a meeting next week that focuses in part on North Korea's nuclear work.
Government insiders in Seoul told the Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday the trilateral gathering could take place on the sidelines of the 53-nation Nuclear Security Summit being held next Monday and Tuesday in The Hague, Netherlands. U.S. President Obama, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are all slated to attend the nuclear-security event.
Abe and Park have yet to meet face-to-face since both leaders came to power in late 2012. Relations between the two East Asian democracies have soured over South Korean perceptions that Japan has attempted to whitewash its colonial and World War II-era actions. Washington has been concerned by the breakdown in ties, as deeper cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo is widely seen as key to effectively responding to the North Korean nuclear threat.
However, Abe recently acknowledged a prior Japanese apology to Korean women mandated into sexual enslavement during the Second World War, and this appears to be leading to a diplomatic thaw.
"A bilateral summit is difficult for now, but considering the U.S. requests for reconciliation between South Korea and Japan, and Japan's tokens of sincerity, it appears that a trilateral summit would be possible," Yonhap quoted an unnamed South Korean government source as saying. "Once our government decides on its position, we will carry out negotiations over the agenda."
Potential topics for discussion include Pyongyang's continued nuclear-arms and ballistic-missile work, the moribund multinational process focused on achieving North Korean denuclearization, and the political outlook in North Korea since the purge and execution last year of leader Kim Jong Un's powerful uncle.