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S. Korea, Japan to Hold First Summit in 3 Years

Dancers and drummers begin a celebration of Fèt Gede in the northeast Haitian city of Fort-Liberte. The two-day festival, which overlaps the Christian All Saints Day, honors ancestors. Haitians wear purple, black and white in honor of their forebears. (Jaudelet Junior Saint Vil/VOA)

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will meet in Seoul Monday for a rare chance at hashing out differences face to face.

Officials in Seoul said the two leaders will meet following a trilateral discussion on Sunday with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

It will be the first summit talks between Japanese and South Korean leaders in more than three years.

Park and Abe have met at international events since taking office, but have so far avoided holding bilateral talks due to deteriorating ties between the Asian neighbors.

Kim Kyou-hyun, Park’s top foreign affairs and security aide, told reporters Wednesday the leaders will take their time to fully discuss issues of mutual interests and ways to improve bilateral ties.

“They are expected to exchange in-depth perspectives on a number of issues, including the issue of comfort women,” Kim said in reference to Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Army during World War II.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Abe said he would like to have candid talks over issues that have created a rift between Seoul and Tokyo.

Other issues on the agenda include conditions for Japanese Self-Defense Forces’ to enter the Korean peninsula, the North Korean nuclear program, and participation at the U.S.-led trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Washington has long sought to mend the ties between its two major allies in East Asia, walking a delicate line between the two sides. Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have cooled since Abe came to power in December 2012.

The Japanese leader has been at odds with neighboring countries over his position on Japan’s wartime atrocities. Abe upheld apologies made by his predecessors over the aggressions, but refused to offer his own apology.

Jee Abbey Lee contributed to this report, which was produced in collaboration with VOA’s Korean Service.