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Kishida unlikely to attend inauguration ceremony of new ROK leader 

Friday’s Sankei front-paged the disclosure by multiple sources that Prime Minister Kishida is inclined not to attend the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Yoon scheduled for May 10 on the grounds that a trip to Seoul by the prime minister in the absence of concrete measures on the part of the ROK to resolve the outstanding disputes over history issues would be “premature.” According to the daily, Foreign Minister Hayashi or another cabinet minister may be sent to attend the ceremony as a GOJ representative. 


In a related development, the daily reported that the delegation sent to Tokyo by President-elect Yoon returned home on Thursday, saying that the Japanese side learned from the delegation that the incoming administration is ready to shift away from the outgoing Moon administration’s somewhat unfriendly attitude toward Japan. Prime Minister Kishida agreed to meet with Yoon’s delegates despite strong opposition from some LDP members based on the assessment that swift reconciliation with Seoul is indispensable for dealing with North Korea, China, and Russia, which apparently are not hesitant to use force to alter the status quo. However, Tokyo still believes that the next South Korean leader must take concrete steps to settle the former comfort women and requisition worker disputes before rapprochement will be possible. The GOJ is paying close attention to Yoon’s position on the proposed liquidation of the assets of Japanese steel companies to compensate wartime forced laborers.  


Sankei wrote in a separate article that some South Koreans were surprised that the Yoon delegation was warmly welcomed by the Japanese side, including by PM Kishida and Foreign Minister Hayashi, as this marked a sharp contrast with the treatment of ROK Ambassador to Japan Kang, who has not been able to pay a courtesy call even on the foreign minister let alone the prime minister even though he took up the post more than 14 months ago. The daily said that the ROK delegation apparently tried to be extremely conciliatory toward the Japanese side during the visit perhaps out of deference to the Biden administration, which has reportedly urged the incoming Yoon administration to improve Seoul’s relations with Tokyo. The paper claimed that the United States is looking to invite Japan and South Korea to the NATO summit slated for June in Spain so a trilateral Biden-Kishida-Yoon summit can be held to facilitate reconciliation between the two Asian allies. 


Today’s national dailies took up Yoon’s decision to tap officials well-versed in American and Japanese affairs as the director and first deputy director of the Office of National Security, respectively, saying that the appointments represent the new administration’s intention to promote trilateral partnership with Washington and Tokyo. The “Japan hand” was reportedly criticized by detractors and forced to resign from another post in the same office for pursuing a general security of military intelligence agreement (GSOMIA) with Tokyo under the Lee administration.   

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