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(LEAD) No decision yet on whether Moon will visit Japan this week: Cheong Wa Dae

Diplomacy 08:50 July 19, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with Cheong Wa Dae's response, details; CHANGES dateline)

SEOUL/TOKYO, July 19 (Yonhap) -- Cheong Wa Dae said Monday it has no announcement to make yet on whether President Moon Jae-in will visit Japan this week.

It was responding to a Japanese news report that said Moon is scheduled to do so for the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympic Games and summit talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

"No decision has been made yet," Park Soo-hyun, senior Cheong Wa Dae secretary for public communication, said.

The president is "trying to take a better path than an easy one" when it comes to the Seoul-Tokyo relations, he added.

This composite photo provided by Yonhap News TV shows South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Opinion polls show that many South Koreans are opposed to Moon making a trip to Tokyo to attend the ceremony slated for Friday.

"We are well aware of the negative public sentiment against (Moon's) visit to Japan," Park said. "Following such a public opinion is an easy choice, but (Moon) also needs to think about taking a lonely path as president."

Cheong Wa Dae has openly set a guarantee of making "accomplishments" in summit talks a precondition for Moon's possible trip to Japan. Seoul is seeking a resolution to longstanding disputes over shared history and Tokyo's unilateral export curbs launched in 2019.

Relations between the neighboring countries have remained at a low point due primarily to the thorny issue of compensating Korean victims of forced labor and sexual enslavement by Japan during its colonial rule from 1910-45.

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration has been pushing to bring the two Asian allies closer for stronger trilateral cooperation in the region.

Earlier Monday, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that Moon plans to attend the Olympic event and hold his first face-to-face summit with Suga on the occasion.

It added that the Japanese government has decided to dismiss Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, over his inappropriate remarks on the possibility of a summit between Moon and Suga.

Soma reportedly told a South Korean reporter that Moon's diplomatic efforts with Japan are tantamount to "masturbating." He was quoted as saying that Japan "does not have the time to care so much about the relationship between the two countries as South Korea thinks."

ejkim@yna.co.kr

lcd@yna.co.kr
(END)

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