PM Lee awaits Cheong Wa Dae’s ‘call’ for Ja­pan coro­na­tion event

The Korea Times - - NATIONAL - By Park Ji-won jw­[email protected]­re­

Chances are high that Prime Min­is­ter Lee Nak-yon will par­tic­i­pate in the Oct. 22 coro­na­tion of Ja­pa­nese Em­peror Naruhito in Tokyo in­stead of Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in, po­lit­i­cal and diplo­matic sources said, Tues­day.

“[The ad­min­is­tra­tion] is con­sid­er­ing send­ing the PM for the up­com­ing en­throne­ment cer­e­mony held in Ja­pan. But this is not a fi­nal call,” a diplo­matic source who is fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter said.

“As the coro­na­tion date is near­ing, it is largely ex­pected that the fi­nal de­ci­sion will be made next week at the ear­li­est pos­si­ble date. Still, there are chances that the South would send an­other politi­cian in­stead of Lee,” an­other source said.

How­ever, the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice de­clined to com­ment. “Noth­ing has been de­cided,” the of­fice said, adding it is wait­ing for Cheong Wa Dae’s de­ci­sion.

Amid es­ca­lat­ing ten­sions be­tween South Korea and Ja­pan over the han­dling of a his­tor­i­cal is­sue re­lated to war­time forced la­bor, at­ten­tion is on who will be at­tend­ing the cer­e­mony and whether the visit will cre­ate a break­through in ad­dress­ing the sour­ing bi­lat­eral ties.

Re­gard­ing the han­dling of the his­toric and eco­nomic dis­putes be­tween the two coun­tries, Seoul has been urg­ing Tokyo to en­gage in ne­go­ti­a­tions while Ja­pan has been in­sist­ing that South Korea should abide by in­ter­na­tional law.

Dur­ing a par­lia­men­tary speech in Ja­pan, Tues­day, Ja­pa­nese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe pres­sured the South to give con­ces­sions and set “con­di­tions” for Ja­pan over the end­ing of the on­go­ing con­tro­versy, say­ing South Korea should abide by in­ter­na­tional law to cre­ate a break­through to­ward the restora­tion of healthy Korea-Ja­pan re­la­tions like in the past.

Lee is widely con­sid­ered to be the right per­son for the role of Seoul’s de facto en­voy to Tokyo as he has an ex­ten­sive net­work in Ja­pan with ex­pe­ri­ence vis­it­ing for­eign coun­tries on be­half of Moon.

If the Korean PM at­tends the cer­e­mony, it’s likely he will meet Ja­pa­nese politi­cians dur­ing his stay and dis­cuss ways to patch up the Gen­eral Se­cu­rity of Mil­i­tary In­for­ma­tion Agree­ment (GSOMIA), a sym­bol of the tri­lat­eral mil­i­tary co­op­er­a­tion be­tween South Korea, Ja­pan and the United States, which will ex­pire on Nov. 23. It has been one of the most con­tentious diplo­matic and se­cu­rity is­sues in the re­gion, ac­cord­ing to the sources.

Some politi­cians from both South Korea and Ja­pan have been dis­cussing ways to lift the trade re­stric­tions against each other.

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