Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se's trip for his first talks with Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida had been scheduled for the weekend, but it was called off after reports the Japanese ministers had visited the Yasukini war shrine in Tokyo, a Seoul Foreign Ministry official told Yonhap Monday.
Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso and another minister had visited the war shrine in recent days, the Seoul official said.
The shrine, honoring Japan's war dead in World War II, has been a source of friction between Japan and its neighbors, South Korea and China. The war dead include 14 designated as Class A criminals by the Allies during post-war trials.
Yun's Tokyo visit was designed to lay out "a big direction between the new governments of Korea and Japan," the official told Yonhap.
"Amid this kind of atmosphere, our stance is that it will be difficult to hold a productive discussion and Yun decided not to visit to Japan this time," the official said.
The official was especially critical of Aso's visit to the shrine, calling it an "irresponsible act."
South Koreas Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young, in a statement, expressed "deep regrets" over the Japanese ministers' visit to a shrine "that glorifies Japan's past aggressive wars and enshrines its war criminals."