S Korean president to skip Tokyo Games, ruling out summit with Suga

20 July, 2021 12:00 AM printer

SEOUL: South Korea’s president will not visit Japan for the Tokyo Olympics, the Blue House said Monday, ruling out the possibility of Moon Jae-in’s first in-person summit with Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, reports AFP.

The two countries have been in talks over staging a top-level encounter during the Games to improve ties that have plunged to their worst level in years over historical disputes. The decision was announced after Seoul summoned the Japanese ambassador at the weekend over a senior Tokyo diplomat’s remarks about Moon—in which he reportedly described the president as “masturbating”, referring to his desire to meet Suga.

Japan’s ambassador reprimanded his deputy Hirohisa Soma for his “highly inappropriate” comments, but a Blue House official said Monday the remarks were “difficult to tolerate”. Although Seoul and Tokyo had “meaningful discussions” on the historical issues, the progress was deemed “still insufficient”, the Blue House said in a statement.

In Tokyo, Suga voiced “regret” over the comments.

“They are extremely inappropriate remarks,” Suga told reporters.

“Regardless, we want to firmly communicate with the South Korean side... to bring the Japan-South Korean relationship to a sound place,” he added.

Tokyo now plans to “remove” Soma from his role following his controversial remarks, Kyodo News said, quoting an unnamed government source.

Tokyo and Seoul are both major US allies, democracies and market economies, but relations between them are strained by ongoing disputes over compensation for Japan’s early-20th-century colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

Hwang Hee, Seoul’s sports and culture minister, will lead the South Korean delegation to the Tokyo Olympics.