OSAKA – By the end of the Group of 20 Osaka summit, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will have had one-on-one talks with as many as 16 world leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, and even a member of a pop idol group.
But conspicuously absent from that flurry of meetings was a sit-down with the leader of one of Japan’s closest neighbors: South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Seoul had sounded out Tokyo about arranging a formal Moon-Abe meeting in Osaka, but Tokyo turned down the idea, citing the recently strained diplomatic relations between the two countries, in particular over wartime labor during Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
A senior Japanese diplomat suggested last week that Tokyo would not arrange a bilateral meeting with Moon in Osaka because it could only highlight tensions between the two countries and would not help improve bilateral ties.
Abe, however, found time to have a meeting with Shingo Murakami, a member of pop idol group Kanjani Eight, which originated in Osaka.
On Thursday afternoon, shortly before meeting with Xi, Abe was interviewed by Murakami for 13 minutes for his radio show at a hotel right next to the G20 media center.
“World leaders are getting together in Osaka. … We need the cooperation of the people of Osaka for security measures” for the summit, Abe told Murakami in the show that aired Saturday, explaining the reason he decided to appear on the radio program.
“We have caused great inconvenience. I’d like to say thank you to people who are cooperating,” Abe said.
At the outset of the interview, Abe told Murakami that he had held bilateral talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the same meeting room earlier in the day, and that Murakami was sitting on the same chair that the Indian leader had sat on.
“Now in the world, only confrontations tend to be highlighted, so I won’t only emphasize differences of opinions. Instead, I will try to find shared views and form consensus” as this year’s G20 chair, Abe said.
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