Japanese diplomat speaks out against South Korean president, future of summit arrangement between two countries unclear

A Japanese diplomat’s derogatory remarks about South Korean President Moon Jae-in have thrown relations between the two countries into a new dilemma and could lead to an aborted meeting arrangement between the two leaders this week.

Japanese media reported earlier that Moon would meet with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo on Friday (July 23, 2021) at the opening of the Tokyo Olympics to advance a step toward better ties between the two countries. But Cheong Wa Dae said it has not yet decided whether the South Korea-Japan summit will take place as scheduled after a senior official at the Japanese embassy in Seoul is believed to have made disparaging remarks about Moon.

On Friday, a South Korean media outlet reported that Japanese Embassy Minister Hiroshi Soma likened Moon’s efforts to improve relations with Tokyo to “masturbation. South Korea protested to the Japanese side, saying Moon had not yet decided whether to travel to Tokyo to meet with Kan.

South Korea has demanded that Japan dismiss Hiroshi Aima and recall him to Tokyo. South Korean media reported Monday that Tokyo has ordered the dismissal and recall of Hiroshi Soma within the next few days.

South Korea and Japan are the United States’ closest allies in East Asia, but relations have been difficult because of island sovereignty disputes and post-World War II legacies.

Washington has continued to privately seek to mediate the dispute between Tokyo and Seoul in order to focus on joint efforts to address security threats from North Korea and China.