Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Wednesday said he will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next month "if circumstances permit."

Abe kept Korea waiting for more than a month after Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha flew to Tokyo on Dec. 19 to deliver President Moon Jae-in's invitation to the Olympics.

A Japanese government spokesman said Tokyo is "consulting with Seoul" about Abe's trip and a meeting with Moon. Abe told reporters that since the 2020 Summer Olympics are held in Tokyo, he wants to like to encourage athletes at the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang.

He added he wants to clarify Japan's stance on the 2015 agreement of the two countries about wartime sex slaves when he meets with Moon. "I also want to drive home the need for strong collaboration between Japan, South Korea and the United States to counter the North Korean threat, and to maintain what has been raised to the maximum level of pressure."

Cheong Wa Dae welcomed the decision. Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said, "We will cooperate closely with the Japanese government so Abe's visit leads to the future-oriented development of bilateral relations."

Abe seems to have made the decision because he wants to promote the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020 and move in lockstep with Washington on the North Korean nuclear issue, Japanese media said.

But there is fresh bad blood between the two countries over the Moon administration's review of the controversial 2015 agreement that indirectly compensates the former sex slaves but lets Tokyo off without admitting full responsibility.

A government official here said, "Japan has to make sure that Korean tourists attend the Tokyo Olympics in two years."

Some Japanese government officials worry that the Moon administration could weaken international sanctions against North Korea for the sake of cross-border talks.
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