President Moon Jae-in called off a possible trip to Tokyo for the start of the Olympics this week in the wake of a Japanese diplomat making contentious comments about the policies of the South Korean president.
"President Moon Jae-in has decided not to visit Japan on the occasion of the Tokyo Olympics. Although the discussions between the two sides were conducted in a friendly atmosphere and there was a considerable amount of understanding, it was still insufficient to be regarded as the outcome for what would result in a summit. And, taking other aspects into a comprehensive consideration, we made this decision."
"I believe that I'm not in a position to comment on the decision made by the South Korean side. () In addition, in order to restore a healthy relationship between Japan and South Korea, we would like to continue dialogue firmly with the South Korean side based on Japan's consistent position."
The trip was planned for Friday and would have included a summit with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in what would have been the first formal discussions between the two and the first summit between the neighbors since December 2019.
The future of South Korea, Japan ties in the wake of President Moon's calling off his trip to Japan.
It's the topic of our News In-depth tonight. Joining us live is Kim Hyun-wook, Professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy.
Professor Kim, thanks for joining us.
This will he or won't he had been ongoing for an unusually long period of time for a presidential visit with media speculations pouring out of both countries for weeks.
The only answer we'd get from Seoul's top office had been that it's not yet clear whether President Moon Jae-in would visit Tokyo and hold a summit with his Japanese counterpart to coincide with the start of the Tokyo Olympics. Up until Monday, both government denied a meeting had been finalized with Moon's office citing a "last minute obstacle."
What has been going on between the two sides regarding this trip?
The final decision on calling off the trip came in the wake of a senior Japanese diplomat's inappropriate remarks regarding President Moon as he described the South Korean leader's efforts to improve ties with Tokyo. Not only is it unacceptable as it refers to the president, but it is beyond my imagination that a diplomat representing a country would talk of any member of the host country in such a way, let alone the head of state. South Korea says it's waiting for proper measures to be taken by Japan on this Japanese diplomat. Help us understand this situation.
Japanese Prime Minister Suga earlier this month called relations between South Korea and Japan
"very difficult," adding that it was up to Seoul to provide a response to the problems. It appears his stance remains unchanged taking it from his remarks made after President Moon's calling off the visit.
What is it that Japan wants and is it reasonable enough for South Korea to meet them halfway, at least?
President Moon, however, will reportedly continue to seek a meeting with his Japanese counterpart in the remainder of his term. He has less than a year left in office.
One, why is President Moon so keen on holding a bilateral with Prime Minister Suga while Suga hasn't shown much enthusiasm for meeting Moon?
Do you think we stand a chance of a bilateral summit and improved Seoul, Tokyo ties in the remainder of President Moon's term?
With Seoul's Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun in Tokyo today for a meeting with his counterpart and a three-way meeting with the U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Sherman in the region this week, we'll see whether they will be able to create a momentum for improved relations.
Kim Hyun-wook, Professor at Korea National Diplomatic Academy, many thanks for your insights tonight. We appreciate it.