U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said on Wednesday she had constructive talks with officials from Japan and South Korea, despite “bilateral differences” that caused her two counterparts to pull out of a planned news conference.
Addressing reporters alone after the three-hour meeting with South Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong Kun and Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Mori, Sherman said the talks were “constructive [and] substantive.”
The three officials discussed freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, the three countries’ commitment to advancing democratic values and human rights, and restated their commitment to maintaining an inclusive, free, peaceful, stable and open Indo-Pacific region, Sherman said.
However, Sherman began a news conference following the meeting by noting that “as has been the case for some time, there are some bilateral differences between Japan and the Republic of Korea that are continuing to be resolved.”
Sherman did not say what specifically had prevented the scheduled joint press conference from taking place.
Bilateral ties between the two nations have frayed over Japan’s 1910-1945 occupation of Korea, including over “comfort women,” Japan’s euphemism for mostly Korean women forced to work in its wartime brothels. The historic dispute has sparked tit-for-tat trade restrictions in recent years.
“One of those differences which is unrelated to today’s meeting has led to the change in format for today’s press availability,” Sherman said, adding that the constructive meeting nonetheless demonstrated that the format of trilateral talks between the three countries are “important and powerful.”