The leaders of Japan and South Korea have agreed to hold three-way talks with U.S. President Barack Obama on the sidelines of an international nuclear conference in The Hague next week.
The foreign ministry in Seoul Friday said President Park Geun-hye will hold talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and President Obama on the North Korean nuclear issue.
The ministry said talks will not include the contentious issue of so-called "comfort women", who were used by Japan's military as sex slaves during World War II. But it said the two sides were in consultations over holding lower-level meetings on the issue.
This will be the first formal meeting between the two leaders since they both came into office more than a year ago. The U.S. has been pressing its two allies to lower tensions in order to focus on issues of common interest, such as North Korea's nuclear program.
President Park has repeatedly refused offers to hold a bilateral summit with Abe, citing Japan's refusal to apologize again for crimes committed during its colonization of South Korea from 1910 to 1945, and Japan's use of Korean women as sex slaves during World War II.
Tokyo is pointing to numerous apologies the Japanese government has already made, and a 1965 agreement that normalized relations and included a large payment to Seoul.
South Korea, along with China, protested Abe's December visit to a controversial war shrine, creating a deepening rift between the countries. It also criticized Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga in February when he said the government would re-examine the testimonies of former comfort women that were used as the basis of a 1993 apology.
However, Abe this month promised to honor Tokyo's previous apologies over its colonial past, including the 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.
Kono gave a speech about his investigation of 16 comfort women. In the speech he admitted that during World War II, Japan pressed many comfort women into service. He then expressed an apology and self-reflection. Since then the speech has come to be known as the “Kono Statement”.
Some information in this report was contributed by AFP and Reuters.