The defense ministers of South Korea and Japan are expected to hold a brief meeting while standing, rather than formal talks, on the sidelines of an international conference in Singapore early next month, a Japanese newspaper reported Tuesday.
The neighboring countries have been pushing to hold the meeting between South Korean Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and his Japanese counterpart Takeshi Iwaya in Singapore on the sidelines of the upcoming Asian security forum, known as the Shangri-La Dialogue.
Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun reported, however, citing multiple government sources, that the two ministers are expected to have a brief meeting while standing, rather than holding formal one-on-one talks, due to strains in military relations between the two countries.
Despite Iwaya's willingness to meet with Jeong, Japan appeared to have thought that such a bilateral meeting is premature, given their soured relations over a radar row, the report said.
In December last year, Japan claimed that a South Korean warship directed military tracking radar at its maritime patrol aircraft, a charge dismissed by Seoul.
But Jeong and Iwaya will attend the trilateral defense chiefs' meeting, along with acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan in Singapore, according to Yomiuri.
"A detailed plan (on the bilateral talks) has yet to be fixed, and working-level consultations between the two countries are under way," Seoul's defense ministry spokesperson Choi Hyun-soo told a regular briefing.
South Korea has also been planning a defense ministers' meeting with China, as well as several other countries in Singapore, though talks between Jeong and Shanahan are forecast to take place in Seoul early next month when the Pentagon chief makes a visit here, according to Seoul officials.
This year's Shangri-La Dialogue, slated for Friday to Sunday, will bring together top defense officials from major countries, including South Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Australia, to serve as a venue for discussions on key security issues, according to its organizer, the International Institute for Strategic Studies.