South Korea says it is undecided on summit with China, Japan

South Korea said Friday it is undecided whether to participate in an annual summit with China and Japan this month due to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to a Tokyo shrine that honors convicted Japanese war criminals. Leaders of the three countries meet once a year on the sidelines of a meeting between their countries and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, scheduled to take place this year from Dec. 12-14 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The three-way summits, part of the so-called ASEAN+3 meeting, have been held every year since their inception in 1999, according to South Korea's Foreign Ministry.

"No decision has been made yet and we are still reviewing the issue," South Korea's presidential office spokesman Kim Man-soo told The Associated Press.

Kim indicated South Korea could participate in a summit with China and Japan if China, the rotating chair for this year's gathering, wants to go ahead with it. Kim said it is customary to follow the opinion of the chair, which he added Seoul has yet to hear.

China has ruled out a one-on-one summit with Koizumi in Kuala Lumpur because of the Japanese leader's annual visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, which deifies World War II war criminals and 2.5 million other war dead.

Japan's relations with its neighbors have deteriorated with Koizumi's annual visits to the shrine, most recently in October, despite repeated demands from South Korea and China to stop. South Korea and China oppose the visits, saying they whitewash Japan's aggression against them. Japan colonized the Korean Peninsula from 1910-1945 and occupied large swaths of China before and during the war, including a puppet state it established in Manchuria.

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun is scheduled to visit Japan this month for summit talks with Koizumi, though the likelihood of a visit appears low amid the frayed ties. "It has become difficult" for Roh to visit Japan, the presidential office's Kim said.

Last month, Roh met Koizumi on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit in the South Korean city of Busan, mainly in consideration of his role as host of the gathering, but the two failed to narrow their differences on the shrine issue, reports the AP. I.L.

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