September 18, 2020 10:19
Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga began his tenure in the boorish style to which South Korea has become accustomed by failing to acknowledge the congratulations of both President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun.
The snub bodes ill for relations between the two neighbors, which already reached their lowest ebb in decades under Suga's predecessor Shinzo Abe.
Moon on Wednesday sent a letter to congratulate Suga on his inauguration, urging combined efforts to develop bilateral relations, while Chung sent a letter proposing more dialogue and strengthening cooperation "in a forward-looking way."
But Suga ignored them. He pointedly avoided any mention of South Korea in his first press conference after he was sworn in. Instead he pledged to "implement foreign policies based on Tokyo's alliance with Washington" and said he wants to "build stable relationship with close neighbors including China and Russia."
He recalled that he became close to Abe because of the issue of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and '80s, which he described as "the most important challenge for his Cabinet as it was during the former administration."
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, who kept his job in the new Cabinet, touched on Tokyo's sour relations with Seoul and their dispute about compensation for Korean victims of forced labor. Motegi insisted it was South Korea that "violated international law."
"But of course, we plan to maintain diplomatic channels [with Seoul], including dialogue between the foreign ministers," he told reporters.
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