Kishida makes 1st pitch in Japan game with South Korea
TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida threw out the first pitch for Friday's World Baseball Classic game between Japan and South Korea, bouncing a ball that was scooped up by Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama, his designated catcher.
Kishida had the credentials to make a better pitch. He was a high school baseball player and is still a big fan of his hometown professional baseball team, the Hiroshima Carp.
His appearance was highly symbolic, signaling the improving relations between the two countries who have often been at odds related to Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule in Korea.
Kishida has invited South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to visit Japan next week for what could be the start of some “shuttle diplomacy.”
Kishida and Yoon will meet for a summit on strengthening ties, both governments said Thursday.
On Monday, South Korea announced it would raise local funds to compensate Koreans who won damage awards in lawsuits against two Japanese companies over their forced labor during colonial rule.
Kishida took office in October 2021 and enjoyed high support rating — achieving little but not triggering controversy — until last summer when his governing Liberal Democratic Party’s powerful former leader Shinzo Abe was assassinated in July.
Kishida’s support ratings have since plunged over his handling of his party’s decades-old cozy ties with the South Korean-based Unification Church, which was revealed after Abe’s death.
As foreign minister, Kishida struck a 2015 agreement with South Korea to resolve controversy over the issue of “comfort women” who were sexually abused by Japan’s military before and during World War II.
Part of that legacy still hampers relations between the two neighbors.
Kishida was first elected to parliament in 1993. An advocate for nuclear disarmament, he escorted former U.S. President Barack Obama during his 2016 visit to Hiroshima, the city that was obliterated together with Nagasaki in U.S. atomic bombings in the closing days of World War II.
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Mari Yamaguchi,Stephen Wade, The Associated Press