[SEOUL] The foreign ministers of China, Japan and South Korea will discuss holding the first leaders' summit in three years as Asia's biggest economies seek to overcome tensions over territorial disputes and Japan's war legacy.
The foreign ministers from the three countries will meet some time this month in Seoul, South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Kyung Soo said Tuesday after a meeting with his Chinese and Japanese counterparts. A summit meeting this year would coincide with the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and Japan's occupation of its neighbours.
A three-way summit can "hopefully follow the successful holding of foreign ministers' talks," Mr Lee told reporters. Japanese Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama separately said it would be "natural" to discuss a summit.
Rows over the sovereignty of islands in the East China Sea have hurt relations between the nations, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe compounded tensions in 2013 by visiting a Tokyo war shrine seen by some as a symbol of Japan's past aggression in Asia.
Mr Abe has yet to hold a bilateral summit with South Korean President Geun Hye Park, and his first formal meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last year appeared frosty.
In that November summit, Japan and China agreed to gradually restart various political, diplomatic and security talks that were frozen as ties soured. China has demanded Japan do more to acknowledge its militant past and the countries said in their joint statement they now agreed to face history directly.
Ms Park has said Japan must address the issue of so-called comfort women, many from Korea, who were trafficked in military brothels, before relations between the two countries can improve.
While Mr Abe has sought to improve ties with China and South Korea, which are two of Japan's biggest trading partners, he's also weighing the wording of a planned statement in August to mark the war anniversary.
The Japanese premier has hinted he may water down previous expressions of remorse in the declaration, risking an angry response from his neighbours.
The three countries' leaders last met in May 2012, a month after their foreign ministers did.
Separately, Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party agreed on Thursday to extend economic sanctions on North Korea by two years. Improved ties between the three North Asian neighbors could help put pressure on the regime in Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear-weapon programme.