Japanese leader not going to South Korea for presidential inauguration

Kyodo

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will has decided not to go to South Korea for the inauguration of South Korean President-elect Park Guen Hye on Feb. 25, government sources said Tuesday.

With Japan eager to improve ties with South Korea that have soured over a pair of South Korean-controlled but Japanese-claimed islets in the Sea of Japan, Abe had sought to visit South Korea for the ceremony.

But Park’s staff has conveyed to Japan its plan to invite ambassadors, not national leaders, to her inaugural ceremony, according to the sources.

The focus now shifts to when Park might come to Japan after special Abe envoy Fukushiro Nukaga earlier this month asked her to do so at an early date.

Nukaga, a member of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and secretary general of a friendship association of Japanese and South Korean lawmakers, agreed with Park during talks in Seoul to work toward improving bilateral ties.

The relationship worsened when outgoing President Lee Myung Bak visited the disputed islets in August — the first visit there by a South Korean president.

Park was elected president on Dec. 19.

The disputed outcroppings are called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.

Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Yasuo Fukuda attended the last two inaugural ceremonies for South Korean presidents.