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Seoul, Tokyo cancel vice foreign ministers meeting

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday denied reports that the vice foreign ministers of Seoul and Tokyo would meet this week to discuss the trade row. Ministries from both sides appear to have canceled the plan after it was reported by the media.

Citing diplomatic sources, news outlets in the two countries reported that South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Sei-young and his Japanese counterpart, Takeo Akiba, would meet Friday or Saturday to discuss ways to resolve the ongoing trade dispute between the two countries. 

South Korean Foreign Vice Minister Cho Sei-young (Yonhap)
South Korean Foreign Vice Minister Cho Sei-young (Yonhap)

According to local daily Chosun Ilbo, the two were expected to hold the meeting in a neutral third country, such as Guam.

Japanese daily Asahi Shimbun also claimed the governments were finalizing plans for a two-day closed-door meeting of the vice ministers in Manila, the Philippines, citing sources in Seoul and Tokyo.

However, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry refuted the reports.

“All the reports about the vice-ministerial level talks are not true. I do not know why such reports are being made,” the ministry’s spokesman Kim In-cheol said.

While the reason behind the cancellation has not been confirmed, it is believed that the revelation of the closed-door meeting may have pressured them to cancel it.

Ties between Korea and Japan are at their worst after Tokyo imposed trade curbs in July and removed Seoul from its whitelist of countries that receive preferential treatment in trade.

While Japan cites national security concerns as the reason behind the decisions, its actions are widely seen as retaliation against the Korean Supreme Court’s ruling in October in favor of Korean victims of forced labor at Japanese companies during the Japanese colonial period.

Korea also announced Monday it would drop Japan as a preferred trading partner in September.

Meanwhile, the envisioned trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of Korea, Japan and China is likely to proceed as planned, according to a Foreign Ministry official. It is expected to be held later this month in Beijing.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and her Japanese counterpart Taro Kono may hold bilateral talks on the sidelines, though no decision has been made on any of the meetings.

By Jo He-rim (