South Korea will agree to a summit with Japan and the United States in The Hague next week, when leaders from around the world gather to discuss nuclear security, the Nikkei business daily said on Wednesday, raising hopes of thawing ties between Seoul and Tokyo.
It would be the first official meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
Abe has visited the leaders of all 10 Southeast Asian nations since taking office 15 months ago but has yet to meet one-on-one with the leaders of South Korea and China. Japan's ties with both neighbors have worsened over bilateral territorial disputes and a feeling in Seoul and Beijing that Tokyo has not atoned for its wartime aggression.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency said the summit had become highly likely following Abe's acknowledgment of a previous government apology to "comfort women", many Korean, forced to serve in wartime military brothels.
Abe told parliament last week that his government would not revise a landmark 1993 apology to those women, as Washington presses for better ties between its two Asian allies.
No one was immediately available for comment at the Japanese Foreign Ministry's Northeast Asia division, which oversees South and North Korean matters, but a senior government official said the ball was in South Korea's court on the matter of potential meeting at The Hague between Abe and Park.
The Nikkei's evening edition said the three leaders would likely focus on North Korean matters in the planned meeting on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit on March 24-25, while leaving highly charged bilateral issues such as Japan's
wartime history largely untouched.