Motegi Continues to Give Cold Shoulder to New South Korean Ambassador to Japan

REUTERS/Adriano Machado
Japan’s Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi looks on during a statement to the media at the Itamaraty Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, January 8, 2021. / file photo

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has yet to arrange a meeting with the South Korean ambassador to Japan, who arrived in January, an unusual situation believed to stem from the cooling of relations between Tokyo and Seoul.

Ambassador Kang Chang-il, who received a doctorate from the University of Tokyo, served as president of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians’ Union when he was a member of the National Assembly. He is known as an expert in Japan relations.

Kang arrived in Japan on Jan. 22 and began his ambassadorial duties on Feb. 12 after a two-week quarantine as a measure against the novel coronavirus. According to sources knowledgeable about Tokyo-Seoul relations, Kang has informed the Japanese government of his wish to meet Motegi.

Apparently, the Japanese government’s position is to not respond to requests for meetings with the South Korean side until Seoul comes up with acceptable solutions to the issues regarding so-called comfort women and the lawsuit brought by wartime requisitioned workers from the Korean Peninsula.

A Japanese government source said that the cold response to Kang is “effectively a measure against South Korea’s refusal to take actions to resolve the issues.”

Motegi has also yet to hold talks over the phone with his South Korean counterpart, Chung Eui-yong, who assumed the foreign minister’s post on Feb. 9.

A meeting between newly appointed ambassadors and the foreign minister is not only for ceremonial purposes. A senior Foreign Ministry official said that the timing of such a meeting shows how Japan views the relationship with the other country.

Previously, South Korean ambassadors to Japan met the foreign minister soon after assuming their posts. Kang’s predecessor, Nam Gwan-pyo, met then Foreign Minister Taro Kono four days after his arrival, and Lee Su-hoon, the ambassador before Nam, met Kono 14 days after arrival.