The president’s plan to visit the Tokyo Olympics was rejected after reports from a Japanese diplomat used obscene language to ridicule him.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in will not visit Tokyo for the upcoming Olympics, setting aside plans for what would have been his first summit with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
The announcement came on Monday after Seoul filed a protest for news Friday that a senior diplomat at the Japanese embassy in Seoul had said Moon was “masturbating” when he described 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.
“Because the Tokyo Olympics are a peaceful festival for all people in the world, we hope that Japan will host them safely and successfully.”
The latest uproar further strengthened relations between the two nations in contention for land claims and their war history, and ended hopes that the Tokyo Games could offer a new beginning of bilateral and regional cooperation.
The Japanese newspaper Yomiuri reported on Monday that Moon would meet with Suga on Friday in Tokyo, in time for the start of the Olympics. But both governments quickly denied a meeting had ended, with Moon’s office citing a “last-minute hurdle”.
Japan also planned to replace the Seoul-based diplomat after his comments about Moon, the newspaper said. The top spokesman for the Government of Japan said the ambassador warned his deputy for the informed statements.
“The statements were inappropriate as a diplomat and we think it is very unfortunate,” Cabinet Secretary-General Katsunobu Kato told a regular briefing. Asked about the report on the diplomat’s dismissal, Kato said it was a matter for the Foreign Minister and did not provide further details.
No summit had been decided between the two leaders, but if Moon decided to visit him, Japan would host him, Kato added. South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun summoned Japanese Ambassador Koichi Aiboshi on Saturday to protest.
Relations between Seoul and Tokyo have been strained since the 2018 South Korean Supreme Court ordered some Japanese companies to compensate Korean forced laborers for their trials during the 1910-1945 Japanese colonial rule on the Korean peninsula. .
The resolutions sparked further trade tensions when in 2019 Japan imposed export controls on vital chemicals for South Korea’s semiconductor industry.
Seoul accused Tokyo of arming the trade and threatened to end an agreement to share military intelligence information with Tokyo that was an important symbol of its trilateral security cooperation with Washington.
South Korea eventually withdrew and continued the deal after being pressured by the Trump administration, which until then seemed happy to let its allies escalate its feud in public.
Countries have sought to improve relations since the inauguration of U.S. President Joe Biden, who has called for stronger three-dimensional cooperation in the face of North Korea’s nuclear threats and China’s challenges. But progress has been slow and friction between countries has continued as the Olympics approach.
Saturday, South Korea Olympic Committee banners removed in the village of Tokyo’s Olympic athletes referring to a 16th-century Korean naval admiral who fought an invading Japanese fleet after the International Olympic Committee decided they were provocative.
In agreeing to remove the banners, South Koreans said they received a promise from the IOC that displays of the “rising sun” Japanese flag would be banned in stadiums and other Olympic venues.
The flag, which depicts a red sun with 16 rays extending outwards, is resented by many people in South Korea and other parts of Asia who see it as a symbol of Japan’s war past.