South Korean Moon cancels trip to Tokyo over “unacceptable” diplomatic comments

SEOUL / TOKYO, July 19 (Reuters) – South Korean President Moon Jae-in will not travel to Tokyo for the next Olympics, his office said on Monday, abandoning plans for what would have been his first summit with the Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

The announcement came after Seoul filed a protest on Friday against a report that a senior diplomat at the Japanese embassy in Seoul said Moon was “masturbating” when describing his efforts to improve relations between the two countries.

“President Moon has decided not to travel to Japan,” Moon’s press secretary Park Soo-hyun told a briefing, adding that the two sides had explored ways to resolve the differences over the history and strengthen cooperation, but had failed to reach an agreement.

“The talks were amicable and made considerable progress, but they still have not been seen as a result of the summit, and we have taken other circumstances into account,” Park said, without giving. More details.

Suga declined to comment on Moon’s decision, but called the Japanese diplomat’s remarks “inappropriate.” Read more

Moon’s office said it had become “skeptical” about his potential trip after the Japanese diplomat’s “unacceptable” comment.

Moon will instead send the culture minister to Friday’s opening ceremony as head of the Korean delegation, his office said, wishing Japan a safe and successful Olympics.

The latest uproar has further inflamed relations between the two fighting nations over land claims and their wartime history, dashing any remaining hope that the Tokyo Games could offer a new start for bilateral and regional cooperation.

Neighbors have long disagreed over compensation for Koreans forced to work in Japanese companies and military brothels during Japanese colonial rule of 1910-1945.

Last month, another feud erupted over a map on the Tokyo Olympics website showing a set of islands controlled by Korea as Japanese territory. Read more

Japanese newspaper Yomiuri announced Monday that Moon would meet Suga in Tokyo on Friday, but the two governments quickly denied that a meeting had been finalized, with Moon’s office citing a “last-minute hurdle.”

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said Tokyo Ambassador to Seoul Koichi Aiboshi had warned his deputy about his “regrettable” remarks, but did not elaborate when asked. if he would be sacked, as Yomiuri reported.

South Korea’s Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun summoned Aiboshi to protest on Saturday. Moon’s office said it took note of Kato’s comment, but called on Tokyo to take action to prevent such a situation from happening again.

Suga this month called relations between Japan and South Korea “very difficult,” adding that it was up to Seoul to settle historic disputes and other issues.

Moon had earlier hoped that the Olympics could provide an opportunity for North and South Korea to improve relations and restart peace talks, before Pyongyang announced it would not participate due to problems. of coronavirus. Read more

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

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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