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S. Korea PM tweets congratulatory message on Japan Emperor ceremony

South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak Yon arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo on Oct. 22, 2019, to attend a ceremony at which Emperor Naruhito proclaimed his enthronement before roughly 2,000 guests from Japan and overseas. (Kyodo)

SEOUL/BEIJING (Kyodo) -- South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak Yon tweeted a congratulatory message Tuesday before attending the ceremony for Japanese Emperor Naruhito to proclaim his enthronement, held before an audience of roughly 2,000 domestic and international guests.

"I congratulate the start of Reiwa era" under the new emperor, who ascended to the Chrysanthemum Throne on May 1, he tweeted.

Lee's visit to Japan comes amid a recent deterioration of bilateral ties over wartime history and trade policy and is being closely watched to see if it leads to improved relations.

"I'll meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as well as other political and economic leaders so that conversations between South Korea and Japan could be accelerated," Lee said.

The prime minister also offered condolences for the victims of Typhoon Hagibis, which triggered massive flooding in Japan and killed more than 80 people earlier this month.

Lee told reporters after the ceremony that he felt the "solemnity of Japan's history and culture."

Other Asian neighbors marked the occasion with congratulations, expressing hope for good relations.

"We hope that both countries' relations will continue to develop in a healthy manner," China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a regular press conference.

Relations between the two countries have been improving recently, with the two sides preparing for President Xi Jinping's first state visit to Japan planned for next spring.

The Philippine government conveyed its "warm wishes" for the Reiwa Era under the emperor's "ideals, wisdom and benevolence."

The office of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in a statement Manila is "confident that this historic occasion will bring new momentum in further strengthening of an already excellent Philippines-Japan relationship".

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