SEOUL – South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki Moon indicated Wednesday he is likely to call off his scheduled visit to Japan this month and said a proposed bilateral summit in December may be canceled because of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit Monday to Yasukuni Shrine.
“Under the current situation, it is not proper to push ahead with a plan to visit Japan,” Ban told reporters.
He had been expected to hold talks with Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura later this month to discuss matters of bilateral concern and to lay the groundwork for summit talks between President Roh Moo Hyun and Koizumi scheduled for December in Tokyo.
“We have to think more about whether it is appropriate to go ahead with the summit under the current atmosphere,” Ban said.
Kim Man Soo, chief spokesman for Roh, said Monday the president may cancel his visit to Japan.
Kim also questioned the possibility of holding a bilateral meeting during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Pusan, South Korea, next month.
South Korea reacted strongly to Koizumi’s visit to the Shinto shrine, which honors Class-A war criminals along with the nation’s war dead. It was his fifth visit since taking office in April 2001.
Shortly after Koizumi visited the shrine, Ban summoned Japanese Ambassador Shotaro Oshima to the Foreign Ministry in Seoul to lodge a formal protest expressing deep regret over the visit.
China on Tuesday canceled a planned visit to Beijing by Machimura. Koizumi’s shrine visits have outraged many Asian countries.
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