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Leaders Summit: Japan, S.Korea in limbo amid uproar over sexual innuendo

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Efforts by the leaders of Japan and South Korea to put an end to several diplomatic disputes between both countries have suffered a setback over an alleged disparaging comment about the South Korean president, Moon Jae-in.

A publication over the weekend by Yomiuri newspaper in Japan said South Korean President Mr. Jae-in was planning to go to Tokyo on Friday to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to mark the start of the Tokyo Olympics.

But Jae-in’s office on Monday said the president will no longer visit the upcoming Olympics, scrapping plans for what would have been his first summit with Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

This is after broadcaster on Friday cited a senior ambassador at Japan’s embassy in Seoul as suggesting Moon was “masturbating” while characterizing the leader’s efforts to enhance ties with Tokyo, South Korea responded angrily and filed a protest with Tokyo.

This is the latest flare-up between the fractious neighbours with an already strained diplomatic relation over problems such as territorial disputes and their shared wartime past, casting more doubt on hopes that the Tokyo Olympics would serve as a catalyst for regional collaboration.
According to the Yomiuri article, Suga and Moon planned to discuss problems that have strained relations for generations, such as reparations for those forced to work in Japanese enterprises and military brothels during Japan’s colonial control from 1910 to 1945.

The report said Japan is also seeking to replace the top Seoul-based diplomat following his reported comments about Moon’s interactions with Japan.

The ambassador warned his deputy about the reported remarks, calling them “unacceptable,” according to Japan’s senior government spokesperson.

“As a diplomat, the words were inappropriate, and we believe it is quite regrettable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said at a regular briefing.

In reaction to the story on the diplomat’s expulsion, Kato stated that personnel matters at abroad embassies will be decided by the foreign minister, but provided no further details.

A meeting between the two leaders has not been scheduled, but Kato emphasized that if Moon decides to visit, Japan will accommodate him.

The presidential Blue House in South Korea said the two countries were in talks but that no decision had been made on Moon’s visit.

“A visit to Japan and a meeting are still doubtful,” it said in a statement, “since the Japanese side has not taken satisfactory action on the last-minute hurdle to a (summit) meeting.”

Choi Jong-kun, South Korea’s vice foreign minister, summoned Japan’s Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi to protest on Saturday.

“He also requested that the Japanese government take concrete and appropriate steps to prevent a repeat of this situation,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

Suga described Japan-South Korea relations as “extremely challenging” earlier this month, saying that it was up to Seoul to address the issues.

Before Pyongyang said it will not participate because of concerns over the coronavirus, Moon had anticipated that the Olympics would provide an opportunity for North and South Korea to strengthen relations and restart peace negotiations.


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