Tokyo angry over visit by Seoul’s top cop to disputed islands controlled by South Korea.
ISTANBUL (AA) – The rift over South Korea-held islets claimed by Japan spilled over in Washington on Wednesday after the two Asian countries abandoned a trilateral news conference.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was left alone to brief the media over the trilateral meeting held in Washington which was also attended by Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori and South Korea’s First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong Kun.
Seoul said Tokyo boycotted the news conference.
Back in Tokyo, Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, said “it would be inappropriate to hold a joint news conference” after the head of South Korea’s police visited the islands in the Sea of Japan, public broadcaster NHK News reported.
It was reportedly the first time in more than a decade that any South Korean official of that position visited the disputed islets. Tokyo had lodged a strong protest with Seoul over the move.
The islets are known as Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.
Tokyo and Seoul are close allies of the US in Asia and Washington have been working to bring the two nations closer, but to no avail largely because of controversy over wartime history between Japan and South Korea which has also affected the bilateral trade between the two countries.
Tensions with North Korea are a common concern of all three nations.
Sources told Tokyo-based Kyodo News the issue of disputed islets did not come up for discussion during the trilateral meeting.
US State Department said the three officials reaffirmed that trilateral cooperation “is essential to tackling the most pressing challenges” in the region and across the globe.
A statement by South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said: “The vice ministers of the three nations shared the perception that the Korean Peninsula and regional peace, stability and prosperity are in their shared interests and also agreed to expand substantive cooperation in such regions as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Central America.”