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Japan rejected summit with South Korea at G7, citing 'unsuitable conditions"

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, arrive at Cornwall Airport Newquay on Thursday, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall. File Photo by Doug Peters/G7 Cornwall 2021/UPI
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and his wife, Mariko Suga, arrive at Cornwall Airport Newquay on Thursday, ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall. File Photo by Doug Peters/G7 Cornwall 2021/UPI | License Photo

June 14 (UPI) -- Japan's prime minister may have snubbed South Korean President Moon Jae-in and rejected an invitation to a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Cornwall, according to Japanese press reports.

Yoshihide Suga said Moon failed to keep promises between the two countries, and that the conditions were "not suitable" for an important one-on-one meeting with the South Korean leader, the Nikkei and other Japanese news services reported Monday.

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Moon took part in the expanded G7 summit as a guest, with other major democracies, including Australia, India and South Africa. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participated in the gathering virtually due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic in his country.

Suga reportedly blamed Seoul for frosty ties between the two countries.

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"Japan-Korea relations are difficult because of the maneuvers of the South Korean side," Suga said. "South Korea must provide a direction" for a resolution.

Relations between the two countries have declined amid demands from South Korean activists representing former "comfort women" and forced wartime laborers. Seoul has generally supported their cause.

Activists also have said Tokyo and Japanese firms should directly pay compensation to victims. Japan has said a 1965 treaty resolved all past issues that occurred during colonization.

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Suga downplayed brief exchanges of greetings with Moon at G7.

Moon "came to say hello, so I greeted him not to be rude," Suga reportedly said. Moon also initiated contact with Suga a second time at a beach barbecue for world leaders, the Japanese prime minister said.

Ahead of G7, reports suggested that Suga, Moon and U.S. President Joe Biden might meet for a trilateral summit. The event never took place.

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Lee Young-chae, a professor at Keisen University in Japan, said in an interview with TBS' Kim Eo-jun's News Factory in Korea that Suga's priority at the G7 was to garner widespread support for the Tokyo Olympics.

The G7 summit communiqué stated support for "the holding of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 in a safe and secure manner as a symbol of global unity in overcoming COVID-19."

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