South Korea’s Moon Drops plan to visit Japan amid turmoil

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in will not visit Tokyo for the Olympics, his office announced yesterday and abandoned his plans for his first summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The announcement came after Seoul protested last Friday over 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 nations.

“President Moon has decided not to visit Japan,” said Moon’s press secretary Park Soo-hyun at a press conference. “Since the Tokyo Olympics are a peaceful celebration for all people around the world, we hope that Japan will host them safely and successfully.”

Photo: AP

The recent turmoil has further ignited relations between the two nations, arguing over territorial claims and their war history, and dashed any remaining hopes that the Olympics could mark a fresh start for bilateral and regional cooperation.

Japan Yomiuri Shimbun Yesterday reported that Moon would meet Suga in Tokyo on Friday, in time for the Olympics to begin, but both governments quickly denied the meeting was over, with Moon’s office citing a “last-minute obstacle”.

Suga and Moon planned to discuss issues that have strained relationships for generations, including compensation for Koreans forced to work in Japanese firms and military brothels during the Japanese colonial rule of 1910-1945 Yomiuri said.

Japan also planned to replace the Seoul-based diplomat following his reports on Moon, the newspaper said.

Japanese chief cabinet secretary Katsunobu Kato said the ambassador had warned his deputy about the reported statements.

“As a diplomat, the statements were inappropriate and we find it very unfortunate,” Kato said at a press conference.

When asked about the report on the deposition of the diplomat, Kato said it was a matter for the foreign minister and did not provide any further information.

A summit meeting between the two heads of state and government has not been decided, but if Moon decides to visit, Japan will meet him, Kato added.

The South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun summoned the Japanese Ambassador to South Korea, Koichi Aiboshi, to protests on Saturday.

“He also called on the Japanese government to take concrete and appropriate steps immediately to prevent such a situation from recurring,” the State Department said in a statement.

Suga called Japan-South Korea relations “very difficult” that month, adding that it was up to Seoul to address the issues.

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