SEOUL / TOKYO, July 19 (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in will not visit Tokyo for the upcoming Olympics, his office announced on Monday and waived plans for his first summit with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The announcement came after Seoul protested Friday a news report that a senior diplomat at the Japanese embassy in Seoul said that Moon was “masturbating” when describing his efforts to improve relations between the two countries.
“President Moon has decided not to visit Japan,” Moon’s press secretary Park Soo-hyun said in a briefing, adding that both sides had explored ways to address historical disputes and strengthen cooperation, but were unable to reach an agreement .
“The talks were friendly and made considerable progress, but it was still not considered a summit outcome and we took other circumstances into account,” said Park without further explanation.
Suga declined to comment on Moon’s decision, but described the Japanese diplomat’s remarks as “inappropriate”. Continue reading
Moon’s office said it had become “skeptical” of his possible trip after the Japanese diplomat made the “unacceptable” comment.
Moon will instead send the culture minister to head the Korean delegation to the opening ceremony on Friday, his office said, wishing Japan a safe and successful Olympics.
The recent turmoil has further ignited relations between the two nations as they argue over territorial claims and their war history, shedding any remaining hopes that the Tokyo Games could mark a fresh start for bilateral and regional cooperation.
The neighbors have long been arguing about the compensation of Koreans who had to work in Japanese companies and military brothels during the Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945.
Last month, another spit broke out over a map on the Tokyo Olympics website showing a number of Korean-controlled islands as Japanese territory. Continue reading
The Japanese Yomiuri newspaper reported Monday that Moon would meet Suga in Tokyo on Friday, but both governments quickly denied the meeting was over, with Moon’s office citing a “last-minute obstacle”.
Japan’s chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said Tokyo’s ambassador to Seoul, Koichi Aiboshi, had warned his deputy about his “unfortunate” remarks, but did not elaborate on whether he would be fired, according to Yomiuri.
South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun summoned Aiboshi to protests on Saturday. Moon’s office said it took note of Kato’s comment, but urged Tokyo to take steps to prevent such a situation from happening again.
Suga called Japan-South Korea relations “very difficult” that month, adding that it was up to Seoul to address historical disputes and other issues.
Moon had previously hoped the Olympics could provide North and South Korea with an opportunity to improve relations and revive peace talks before Pyongyang announced it would not participate over coronavirus concerns. Continue reading
Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim, Ju-min Park in Tokyo, Hyonhee Shin, Sangmi Cha and Jack Kim in Seoul; Editing by William Mallard, Gerry Doyle, Lincoln Feast and Tomasz Janowski
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