South Korean President Park Geun-hye told U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Monday that Japan should first resolve long-running grievances over its sexual enslavement of Korean women and other colonial-era atrocities if the two neighbors are to build trust and improve ties.
Park made the remark after Hagel talked about the importance of resolving historical problems and other issues between Seoul and Tokyo in order to establish a three-way security cooperation between South Korea, Japan and the United States, senior presidential secretary Lee Jung-hyun said.
"I also think that Japan is an important nation to cooperate with for peace and stability in Northeast Asia," Park was quoted as saying. "I am also well aware of the importance of cooperation between South Korea, the U.S. and Japan."
"As you know, however, trust has not been built because of Japan's leadership repeatedly making regressive remarks on historical and territorial issues," she said. "There are people still suffering... These are not issues that the leaders can sit down and resolve."
Park used Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean woman for its troops during World War II as an example, saying the issue is still ongoing, as Japan keeps "humiliating" the victims who have so far lived with deep wounds in their hearts after having their youthful years ruined.
"Would this issue be resolved only if the leaders of South Korea and Japan hold talks?" Park said. "Japan should show a sincere attitude on such issues while the leaders of the two countries hold talks."
Park accused Japan of only seeking talks while "rubbing salt on the wounds." Relations between South Korea and Japan were strained even before Park took office in February, and have soured further since, due to Japan's repeated claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo and its unrepentant attitude toward the sexual slavery issue.
Park has shunned a summit with Japan, visiting China in June on her second overseas trip as president after the first trip to the United States a month earlier. Her predecessors have usually visited Japan ahead of China. Some have even doubted whether a summit with Japan will be able to take place before the end of the year.(Yonhap News)