Archive for April 6, 2017
Two South Korean cabinet members have declined to meet with Japanese Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine, who recently returned to Seoul after a three-month recall, their ministries said Thursday. Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo and Defense Minister Han Min-koo turned down Nagamine’s request, citing such reasons as scheduling conflicts. The Japanese envoy has also asked to meet with acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn. The government will make a thorough decision, a spokesperson for South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told reporters Thursday. But the odds seem slim, with the spokesperson also criticizing Nagamine for speaking publicly about his request to meet with a foreign leader before both sides had agreed to it. After arriving in Seoul on Tuesday, Nagamine said he wanted to meet with Hwang as soon as possible and urge him to affirm a commitment to a 2015 bilateral deal aimed at resolving the issue of wartime “comfort women.” South Korean media reported this comment as a breach of diplomatic protocol. Japan has called for the removal of a statue symbolizing comfort women near its embassy in Seoul, as well as another in front of its consulate in Busan. The latter had led Tokyo to temporarily recall Nagamine back in January. This has incensed the South Korean public. Most candidates in the presidential election scheduled for May 9 want to scrap or renegotiate the comfort women deal. The government is likely taking heed of such sentiment.