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S. Korea's Moon won't attend emperor's enthronement ceremony: sources

South Korean President Moon Jae In (File photo, Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- South Korea has told Japan that it may send Prime Minister Lee Nak Yon to attend Emperor Naruhito's enthronement ceremony on Oct. 22, rather than President Moon Jae In, diplomatic sources well-versed in bilateral affairs said Monday.

"The possibility of President Moon Jae In attending has vanished," one such source from Japan declared.

Ties between Japan and South Korea have sunk to their lowest level in decades over South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese firms to compensate Korean plaintiffs over wartime labor, and subsequent moves to have corporate assets seized.

The last time Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held talks was in September last year when they met on the sidelines of a regional economic forum in Russia's Vladivostok.

The Japanese side has ruled out a fresh summit in the absence of progress on the forced labor compensation issue, saying the South Korean side first needs to make efforts to resolve it.

It has made clear to Seoul that even if Moon were to attend the enthronement ceremony, a meeting with Abe would be unlikely.

According to the sources, meetings may be arranged between Lee and two former Japanese prime ministers -- Yoshiro Mori, who once led a Japan-South Korea parliamentary league, and Yasuo Fukuda -- both of whom belong to the same ruling Liberal Democratic Party faction as Abe.

A precedent for Lee's possible visit was set when South Korea dispatched Prime Minister Kang Young Hoon to then Emperor Akihito's enthronement ceremony in November 1990.

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