- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2020

President Trump’s push to include South Korea in an upcoming Group of Seven summit is triggering backlash from Japan and threatening to reignite tensions that soared between Tokyo and Seoul last year.

A high level Japanese official has expressed discontent to U.S. officials over Mr. Trump’s late-May announcement that he hoped to add South Korea and others, including Australia, Russia and India, to the invite list for the summit likely to be held in September.

Diplomatic sources told Japan’s Kyodo News Agency on condition of anonymity that the Japanese official lamented that South Korea is not in lockstep with the G-7 on Chinese and North Korean issues. The official was reportedly told by the U.S. side that any final decision on the issue would rest with Mr. Trump.

There has been no comment on the matter from the White House since Kyodo published an article on the matter Sunday, although South Korean officials were outraged. South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency cited an anonymous official from President Moon Jae-in’s office in Seoul as saying Tokyo’s protest reflected typical “shameless” behavior by Japan toward South Korea.

U.S. officials have spent recent months watching closely for signs of antipathy between Japan and South Korea, both of whom are close U.S. allies despite sharing a violent history and deep distrust for each other. It remains to be seen whether the current back-and-forth will escalate into full-blown diplomatic spat akin to what unfolded between the two in late 2019.



At the time, South Korea’s threat to cancel a key intelligence-sharing pact with Japan triggered unease in Washington by throwing into question the three-way alliance that underpins U.S. policy toward North Korea, as well as wider American security architecture across Asia.

The South Koreans ultimately dropped the threat, but frustrations still soared between Tokyo and Seoul, amid Japanese insinuations that South Korean President Moon’s China policy is too soft — something the Moon administration flatly denies.

Whether South Korea or other added nations ultimately attend the upcoming G-7 summit also remains to be seen. The meeting of the regular G-7 members, including the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom — plus European Union officials — was slated to take place this month.

Mr. Trump announced in late May that he was postponing the meeting until September or later because of travel restrictions caused by the global coronavirus pandemic.

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