Hayashi set to attend S. Korean presidential inauguration

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi speaks during a Diet budget committee meeting in March.

The government is finalizing plans to send Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi to the inauguration ceremony of South Korean President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul on May 10.

The ceremony will be held in the front garden of the National Assembly compound in the South Korean capital.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida will not attend the ceremony mainly because there is no assurance that Seoul will offer any solutions on issues concerning so-called comfort women and wartime requisitioned workers, according to Japanese and South Korean sources.

Hayashi is set to visit South Korea on May 9-10. During his trip, Japan’s top diplomat is likely to hold talks with senior South Korean officials such as Park Jin, a member of the national assembly who has been nominated for the foreign minister’s post.

In addition to asking South Korea to take clear steps to resolve the outstanding issues, Hayashi is expected to confirm cooperation in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile development, among other issues.

Relations between Japan and South Korea have been described as the worst they have ever been in the post-World War II period.

Yoon sent a delegation to Japan in April after his election win, and Kishida held talks with the South Korean officials, moves that were interpreted as attempts by both sides to find a breakthrough.

Japanese prime ministers have attended South Korean presidential inauguration ceremonies in the past, including Junichiro Koizumi and Yasuo Fukuda. However, the government has concluded it would be premature for Kishida to visit Seoul for the ceremony due to the lack of progress on outstanding issues.