Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga of Japan holds a press conference on Thursday in Tokyo regarding a state of emergency for Tokyo from July 12 to Aug. 22 due to the spread of COVID-19. (AP/Yonhap News)
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said it was “obvious that a respectful response should be accorded in diplomatic terms” if South Korean President Moon Jae-in visits Japan.
His remarks came in response to a question at a press conference in Tokyo on Thursday afternoon about whether he intended to participate in a South Korea-Japan summit if Moon visits for the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and whether he would apply any preconditions for doing so.
In terms of whether he would agree to the summit, Suga avoided giving an immediate answer.
His press conference that evening was in connection with his announcement earlier that day that a state of emergency was being declared for Tokyo from July 12 to Aug. 22 due to the spread of COVID-19.
“Japan-South Korea relations are in a very difficult state right now because of the issue of former workers from the Korean Peninsula [forced labor mobilization victims] and the comfort women [survivors of sexual enslavement by the Japanese military],” he said.
“I think it’s important for South Korea to react with a sense of responsibility to resolve these issues between Japan and South Korea,” he added, reiterating Japan’s previously established stance.
“But if [Moon] visits Japan, then I think it is obvious that a respectful response should be accorded in diplomatic terms,” he continued.
Japanese news outlets have recently reported that the South Korean government expressed Moon’s intent to visit Japan for the Olympics, and that Suga intends to have his first in-person summit with Moon since taking office in September 2020.
On Tuesday, a key Blue House official said, “If we anticipate a South Korea-Japan summit and something coming out of it, then we would be willing to consider a visit to Japan [by Moon].”
Meanwhile, Nippon TV and other Japanese news outlets reported Thursday evening that the decision had been made to hold events within Tokyo at the Summer Olympics without spectators.
The decision was reportedly made at a five-way meeting attended by representatives of Tokyo Metropolis, the Tokyo organising committee, the International Olympic Committee, and the International Paralympic Committee.
In the case of events taking place outside of Tokyo, discussions are expected to be held in a meeting with the corresponding local governments at a later date, the network said.
On Thursday, Suga said, “I’m told that 400 million people throughout the world will be watching on their televisions. The Olympics and Paralympics have the power to unite the hearts of people around the world.”
“This is an opportunity for the world to unite as we face the enormous chaos created by the novel coronavirus,” he added.
“We wish to broadcast from Tokyo how it is possible to overcome a difficult situation through human effort.”
By Cho Ki-weon, staff reporter
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