Vice FM Choi says Soma's remarks affected Moon's decision not to visit Japan

김승연 / 2021-07-20 11:45:30
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vice FM-Japan
▲ First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun speaks to reporters before departing for Japan at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul, on July 20, 2021. (Yonhap)

vice FM-Japan

Vice FM Choi says Soma's remarks affected Moon's decision not to visit Japan

By Kim Seung-yeon

SEOUL, July 20 (Yonhap) -- First Vice Foreign Minister Choi Jong-kun said Tuesday that the recent remarks by a senior Japanese diplomat disparaging President Moon Jae-in's efforts to improve ties with Tokyo acted as a "significant obstacle" to Moon's potential trip to Tokyo.

Choi made the remark before departing for Tokyo to attend bilateral and trilateral talks with his Japanese and U.S. counterparts, renewing the call for Tokyo to take appropriate action about the remarks by Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

"Soma's remarks acted as a significant obstacle and the nature of his remarks were beyond speechless," Choi told reporters at Incheon International Airport. "I believe there will be due steps, as we have requested."

Choi was scheduled to attend bilateral talks with his Japanese counterpart, Takeo Mori, in Tokyo later in the day and hold a trilateral meeting with Mori and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman, slated for Wednesday.

Choi's trip came as the already-frayed relations with Tokyo took yet another turn for the worse this week after Soma reportedly told a news reporter at lunch last week that Moon's efforts to improve ties with Tokyo were tantamount to "masturbation," prompting Seoul to summon the Japanese ambassador and lodge a protest.

Seoul has asked Tokyo to take "due steps" over Soma's "rude" remarks.

On Monday, Moon's office announced that President Moon Jae-in will not visit Japan for the opening of the Olympic Games, dashing hope for a potential summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on the occasion.

While in Tokyo, Choi was expected to discuss with Mori the pending bilateral issues stemming from the row over wartime history and forced labor and address the latest diplomatic gaffe, among others.

Before the departure, Choi pointed out that there are areas where the two countries can cooperate, like the coronavirus response, climate change and North Korean nuclear issues, which will also be discussed in the three-way meeting.

"What's important is that Japan is our close, amicable neighbor and we have a lot to cooperate on as we hold hands together to overcome the difficult time," Choi added.

(END)

(C) Yonhap News Agency. All Rights Reserved

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