South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon will take a three-day visit to Japan from Tuesday to participate in the enthronement ceremony for the new Japanese king and have a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In the wake of a first visit by the top South Korean official as special envoy to Japan since the escalation of conflict between Seoul and Tokyo in July, watchers in the two countries carefully forecast a possible summit sometime in November. The South Korean prime minister will attend the enthronement ceremony on Tuesday before meeting with Abe on Thursday.
Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the Seoul government is considering holding a South Korea-Japan summit next month. The Japanese daily predicts that the summit could take place during the ASEAN + 3 (South Korea, China, Japan) in Thailand in early November or the APEC summit in Chile in mid-November. Since the South Korea-Japan General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) is set to expire on November 23, the two countries should take action beforehand if their leaders are to seek a solution.
“We will have to wait to see the results of the meeting between Lee and Prime Minister Abe,” the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae said, expressing expectations although cautiously.
“Unless there are changes including Japan’s easing of export restrictions, it will be difficult for the two leaders to meet,” a Cheong Wa Dae source said. “On the contrary, if the two sides manage to narrow differences and find a common ground, a summit can take place either in Japan or South Korea since they are in close proximity.”
In a related move, South Korea’s deputy prime minister for economy Hong Nam-ki, while visiting the U.S., told reporters on Saturday that Prime Minister Lee’s meeting with Prime Minister Abe could provide important momentum. “The government believes that the two nations resolve this issue within this year and thereby remove uncertainties,” he added.