Japanese ambassador cautions his deputy over ‘extremely inappropriate’ remarks

SEOUL-- Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Koichi Aiboshi said Saturday he has cautioned his deputy over "extremely inappropriate" remarks seen as disparaging President Moon Jae-in's efforts to improve relations between Seoul and Tokyo.

The cable TV broadcaster, JTBC, reported Friday that Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy, made sexually indecent comments during a lunch with its reporter, saying Moon is in a tug of war only with himself while Tokyo has little room to pay attention to pending issues between the two countries.

The two countries have been in talks over the possibility of Moon visiting Tokyo to attend the opening ceremony of the Summer Games later this month and having talks with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to help address protracted rows over wartime history and trade.

"(The remarks) as a diplomat were extremely inappropriate and very regrettable," Aiboshi said in a press release. "I have sternly cautioned Minister Soma after receiving his briefing (on the matter)."

The ambassador said that while Soma did make the controversial remarks, he has retracted the remarks, which Soma claimed were by no means directed at Moon.

Seoul's foreign ministry said it plans to take a "due diplomatic step" over the remarks.

"If the report is true, such words and deeds as a diplomat are very inappropriate," a ministry official said.

Soma's gaffe added to tensions between Seoul and Tokyo over the long-simmering issues of Japan's wartime forced labor and sexual slavery, as well as its restrictions on exports of key industrial materials to South Korea.

Seoul has been cranking up diplomacy with Tokyo to address the issues through high-level talks and enhance cooperation in addressing shared challenges, such as North Korea's nuclear threats, amid Washington's push to bring its two Asian allies closer.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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