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Japan’s No. 2 diplomat in South Korea has been ordered home by the Foreign Ministry for offending his host country with a disparaging remark about South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a Japanese government source said Sunday.

Hirohisa Soma has been serving as the deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul since July 2019.

Hirohisa Soma, the deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, enters South Korea's Foreign Ministry in Seoul on July 13. | YONHAP NEWS AGENCY / VIA KYODO
Hirohisa Soma, the deputy chief of mission at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, enters South Korea’s Foreign Ministry in Seoul on July 13. | YONHAP NEWS AGENCY / VIA KYODO

In mid-July, South Korean broadcaster JTBC reported that Soma had told one of its reporters that Moon’s diplomatic efforts regarding frayed bilateral relations amounted to “masturbating.”

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry then lodged a protest and asked that the Japanese government take “visible” steps to prevent a similar incident from happening.

The Japanese Embassy subsequently said Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Koichi Aiboshi had reprimanded his deputy for making an “extremely inappropriate remark.”

Moon had been considering visiting Japan to attend the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics and hold talks with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on the sidelines.

Following the incident, however, Seoul announced that Moon would not visit Tokyo.

Japan and South Korea have not held summit talks since December 2019, when Suga’s predecessor Shinzo Abe and Moon met.

Japan-South Korea relations remain strained due largely to a feud over wartime compensation.

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