The Foreign Ministry said Monday that it had fine-tuned details of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's first visit to South Korea given its importance and the stern situation on the Korean Peninsula.
The ministry provided the explanation in response to an interview that Tillerson had with the Independent Journal Review. In the interview carried out last Saturday on his way to China from South Korea, Tillerson said that Seoul never invited him to dinner following his meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.
Tillerson said that at the last minute the South’s government realized that optically it wasn’t playing very well so it put out a statement that there was no dinner because the secretary was tired.
Asked if Seoul had lied about the matter, Tillerson said that that was the explanation that Seoul had given. He then said that the host country decides the agenda.
A Foreign Ministry official said that there is a possibility of confusion in communication over the dinner schedule, adding that an appropriate explanation will be provided if deemed necessary.
Asked earlier about the reasons Tillerson was not having dinner in South Korea, a ministry official had said that it is not good protocol to forcibly include a meal when coordinating an agenda. The official then said that it is politically important for Tillerson to spend time and talk with people in uniform during his short stay.
On Tillerson describing Japan as the U.S.’ “most important ally” and South Korea as “an important partner” in the interview, the ministry official cautioned against reading too much into Tillerson’s remarks, saying the expressions are not too noteworthy when viewed in the whole context.
Tillerson visited Japan between last Wednesday and Friday. He then spent last Friday and Saturday in South Korea.