Trip to Tokyo for Moon possible if there is summit: Blue House

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Trip to Tokyo for Moon possible if there is summit: Blue House

Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, right, take part in the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, on June 13. The two leaders did not hold separate bilateral talks on the sidelines of the meeting. [YONHAP]

Korean President Moon Jae-in, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, right, take part in the G7 summit in Cornwall, England, on June 13. The two leaders did not hold separate bilateral talks on the sidelines of the meeting. [YONHAP]

 
The Blue House said Tuesday that no decision has been made on whether President Moon Jae-in will attend the Tokyo Olympics later this month after Japanese media reported that the Korean leader had conveyed intentions to visit Japan.  
 
Japan’s Sankei Shimbun reported Tuesday morning that Seoul had conveyed to Tokyo that Moon could possibly attend the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics scheduled for July 23. 
 
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is willing to hold his first bilateral summit with Moon should he visit Tokyo, a government source told the conservative newspaper. A similar report was carried by Fuji News Network (FNN).  
 
The two leaders held their first phone call after Suga was inaugurated as prime minister last September but have yet to hold a summit despite crossing paths last month at a Group of 7, or G7, summit in England.
 
In response to Japan’s reports of a visit by Moon, a Blue House official told reporters Tuesday, “We will leave the possibility of [the president’s] visit to Japan open and review the condition of holding a Korea-Japan summit and other results. But currently, we hold the position of wait-and-see, and the accurate situation right now is that nothing has been decided.”
 
The official pointed to other considerations, including Covid-19.  
 
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato in a press conference Tuesday said on the reports about Moon’s visit that there had been “no notification” that the Korean president will visit Japan.
 
He added that foreign leaders' visits related to the upcoming Tokyo Summer Games are being handled by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and each country’s Olympic committee.  
 
The two leaders only exchanged brief greetings at the G7 summit from June 11 to 13.  
 
Suga said in a press conference after the summit that “promises between countries are not being kept.”
 
Moon in turn said that it was regretful that “a valuable opportunity for a new start of Korea-Japan relations” was wasted.  
 
The two countries have struggled to overcome tricky diplomatic issues including the compensation of Korean forced laborers and wartime sexual slavery victims during World War II and an ongoing trade spat. The two sides have further clashed over Japan's refusal to remove Korea's easternmost Dokdo islets from a map on the official Tokyo Summer Olympics website.
 
A Blue House official told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday that such a visit was “not highly probably,” pointing out that the Moon administration has continuously conveyed its position of trying to improve bilateral relations through dialogue.  
 
The official pointed out that Moon had pursued talks with Suga at the G7, which fell through, and added that currently there is no likelihood of a visit by Moon to visit Tokyo “unless Japan actively shows a willingness to hold talks.”
 
Another government official requesting anonymity told the JoongAng Ilbo that “nothing has changed from before” regarding Moon visiting Japan, noting that the “Japanese government has yet to extend an official invitation.”  
 
Moon last visited Japan in June 2019 to attend a Group of 20 summit that then Japanese Prime Minister Abe hosted in Osaka.  
 
The last Korea-Japan summit was held in December 2019. 

BY SARAH KIM, KANG TAE-HWA [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]
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