South Korea, China, and Japan Leaders to Dine in Casual Environment

Michael Song, Oct. 28, 2015, 9:32 a.m.

President Park Geun-hye, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will dine at an art gallery during their upcoming meeting in Seoul. The aim is to provide a less formal atmosphere than an official government venue since relations with Japan are uniquely tense, a government source said Tuesday. 

The three leaders will also attend a business forum on the sidelines of the three-way summit and boost free-trade negotiations between Korea, China and Japan. However, the three-way summit has still not been officially announced since Seoul and Tokyo cannot agree on a bilateral meeting of their leaders.

Both Korean and Japanese media on Monday cited a Cheong Wa Dae official as saying Seoul proposed a bilateral meeting on Nov. 2 and was only waiting for an answer. But Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied it.

On Tuesday, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported that the two governments agreed to hold the meeting on Nov. 2, one day after the trilateral summit.

This has fanned speculation that relations remain so tense that no bilateral meeting will take place. But experts say it is merely a case of who blinks first, since Park wants to raise the question of women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese army in World War II, and Japan would rather not talk about it. "Abe has actively pursued a summit with Korea so we expect the meeting to take place," an official said.

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