Japan sending foreign minister, former prime minister to inauguration
Japan is sending Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi and former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama to President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's inauguration on Tuesday.
Hayashi will visit Seoul for a two-day trip starting Monday as a special envoy of Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and hold talks with key members of the Korean government during his stay, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.
This will be the first visit to Seoul by a Japanese foreign minister since Taro Kono's visit in June 2018.
Hayashi is expected to meet with foreign minister nominee Park Jin Monday, according to Japanese media, and is arranging to meet separately with Yoon to deliver a letter from the Japanese prime minister.
"This visit will serve as an opportunity to communicate closely with the new Korean government, based on Japan's consistent position to restore relations to a healthy state," the Japanese Foreign Ministry said in a statement Friday.
The possibility of Kishida himself attending the inauguration has been met with a mixed reaction in Japan. Some members of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) were opposed to it, arguing it could "send the wrong message to Korea," according to Jiji Press.
"It is desirable that Prime Minister Kishida attends the inauguration ceremony to restore relations," the Asahi Shimbun wrote in a recent editorial.
Fukushiro Nukaga, chairman of the Japan-Korea Parliamentarians' Union and a member of the LDP, and Ryota Takeda, the group's secretary-general, are also expected to attend the ceremony.
In late April, Yoon Suk-yeol sent a policy delegation to Tokyo led by People Power Party Rep. Chung Jin-suk, a National Assembly deputy speaker. Yoon's delegation met with Hayashi, Nukaga and other Japanese officials. The group also delivered a letter from Yoon to Kishida at his residence and discussed bilateral issues.
Seoul and Tokyo faced frayed relations over historical issues stemming from Japan's 1910-45 colonial period, such as the compensation of forced laborers and victims of Japanese wartime sexual slavery. Relations further soured due to Japanese export restrictions on goods bound for Korea starting the summer of 2019.
Yoon has signaled intentions to improve relations in a forward-looking manner, especially taking into consideration Washington's push to improve cooperation in the region. The incoming president is expected to appoint Yun Duk-min, a former chancellor of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy, as his ambassador to Tokyo, according to local press reports.
Aside from the inauguration of President Moon Jae-in, who had to assume office immediately after election because of the impeachment and ouster of his predecessor, Japan has always sent prime ministers, or former prime ministers, to inaugurations of Korean presidents.
Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan will attend Yoon's inauguration as a special envoy of President Xi Jinping, Beijing's Foreign Ministry and the presidential inauguration organizing committee said Friday.
Wang will be the highest-ranking Chinese official ever to attend a Korean president's inauguration.
Other foreign dignitaries to attend Yoon's inauguration, according to Yoon's inauguration committee, include Douglas Emhoff, husband of U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, Singaporean President Halimah Yacob and Central African Republic President Faustin-Archange Touadéra and former Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]