Published : 2013-01-04 11:47
Updated : 2013-01-04 11:47
South Korea's incoming President Park Geun-hye was to meet with special envoys of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday in her first diplomatic test amid concern relations between the two neighbors could worsen further under the right-wing Abe.
Aides say Park's meeting with the delegation, led by former Japanese Finance Minister Fukushiro Nukaga, is unlikely to take up hard issues and turn testy as it will be their first meeting. Still, the meeting has drawn attention to see whether Park will voice concern about Japan becoming more right-wing.
Abe took office as Japan's new prime minister late last month with a pledge to revise Tokyo's past apologies for its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and to bolster the country's territorial claims to South Korea's easternmost islets of Dokdo.
These measures, if realized, are certain to send tensions between the two countries soaring again. Seoul and Tokyo saw their relations sink to their lowest levels in decades last year after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak made an unprecedented visit to Dokdo.
Park, set to be sworn in late next month, made clear in a news conference last month that Dokdo is not a subject for negotiation and urged Japan to "squarely face" the matter for their two countries' future.
In Friday's meeting, special envoy Nukaga is expected to hand a personal letter from Abe to Park. Abe reportedly asked the envoy to deliver a message that South Korea is a very important country as a neighbor. The Japanese delegation also includes two lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and Japanese Ambassador Koro Bessho.
The meeting will be Park's first public appearance in three days. Since paying a visit to the national cemetery and attending a New Year's Day event of her Saenuri Party on Tuesday, she has focused on selecting members of her transition team expected to take off on Sunday.
Friday's meeting was set up after Park turned down an earlier meeting request that Abe's envoy, Nukaga, made shortly after she won the Dec. 19 election. She cited scheduling problems as a reason, but the move prompted speculation that she is cautious about meeting with representatives of Abe's party that rose to power on a nationalist platform. (Yonhap News)