Senior ruling party officials welcomed Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s announcement on Jan. 24 that he will attend the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics. However, certain conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) members are opposed to his trip on the grounds that “this may send the wrong message to the ROK government.”
Abe conveyed this decision at his meeting with LDP Secretary General Toshihiro Nikai at the Kantei on Jan. 24. Nikai later revealed that he responded with: “This is great. Japan will also have to invite [the ROK president] when it hosts the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.”
Komeito also reacted positively to the decision, since its leader Natsuo Yamaguchi had expressed his hope for Abe’s presence at the opening ceremony.
However, certain ruling party members are critical. Many of them voiced their opposition to the ROK visit at the joint meeting on Jan. 24 of the “Special Mission Committee on Restoring Honor and Trust in Japan” (chaired by former Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone) and the Foreign Affairs Division. Participants in the meeting claimed that, “We will lose the people’s support if the Prime Minister visits the ROK because a majority of them are cautious about the visit.” Some voiced concern that, “The ROK is using the Olympics for political purposes. If the Prime Minister visits the ROK, he will be lending a hand in this.”
For now, the opposition parties have refrained from criticizing the trip. Party of Hope leader Yuichiro Tamaki merely stated on Jan. 24: “We hope that Japan will speak up on what needs to be said in order not to send the wrong message.”
Nippon Ishin [Japan Innovation Party] Secretary General Nobuyuki Baba voiced his approval: “I would think it is acceptable to participate in the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which is a celebration of sports and peace.” (Slightly abridged)