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Senior Japanese Embassy diplomat recalled home after disparaging remarks against Moon

TOKYO, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) — A senior Japanese Embassy diplomat in Seoul has been recalled home after causing a stir with remarks disparaging South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s efforts to improve relations between the two countries, a Japanese paper reported Sunday.

Hirohisa Soma, deputy chief of mission at the embassy, has been criticized both in Seoul and Tokyo after telling a South Korean reporter during a lunch meeting last month that Moon’s efforts to improve ties with Tokyo were tantamount to “masturbation.”

On Sunday, Japan’s Nikkei Shimbun newspaper reported that Soma has been ordered to return home, saying the No. 2 post at the Japanese Embassy in Seoul has usually been replaced every two years and it’s been over two years since Soma took the job.

Soma’s remarks have added to tensions between Seoul and Tokyo over the long-simmering issues of Japan’s wartime forced labor and sexual slavery, as well as its restrictions on exports of key industrial materials to South Korea.

The gaffe has been cited as one of the reasons that affected Moon’s decision not to visit Tokyo for the opening of the Olympic Games, which dashed hopes for a potential summit with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on the occasion.

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