SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea’s spy chief has proposed a summit of the leaders of the United States, Japan and the two Koreas during the Tokyo Olympics next year, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Park Jie-won made the proposal in Japan, where he arrived on Sunday for his first trip as head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) aimed at improving relations strained by a feud over compensation for Koreans forced to work for Japanese firms during its 1910-45 colonial rule.
Park suggested the summit during a Tuesday meeting with new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, saying it could take up the issues of North Korea’s denuclearisation and the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korean agents, the newspaper said.
Japan’s relations with both North and South Korea have long been difficult, largely because of its colonisation of the Korean peninsula.
Park conveyed South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s willingness to normalise ties with Japan, for which he said there needed to be some Japanese apology or expression of regret for the wartime forced labour, the newspaper said.
“The Olympics could provide a chance to resolve the bilateral issue of forced labour and regional issues including North Korea’s nuclear programmes and Japanese abductees,” the newspaper cited Park as saying.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that Park had suggested that Moon and Suga announce a new declaration to build on a 1998 joint pledge of a “future-oriented relationship”.
“Both leaders are strongly willing to resolve current issues,” the news agency quoted Park as saying.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s attendance at such a summit would be a landmark.
The NIS declined to comment on the reports.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato did not elaborate on the summit suggestion in a briefing but said Suga told Park that cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States was essential in dealing with North Korea.
Kato cited Suga as demanding that South Korea “create an opportunity to restore healthy relations between Japan and South Korea, which have been in a very severe situation”.
(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Additional reporting by Ju-min Park in Seoul and Tetsushi Kajimoto and Antoni Slodkowski in Tokyo; Editing by Robert Birsel)