National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Park Jie-won (Yonhap)
The foreign ministry dismissed as "groundless" a media report Monday that it has been "bypassed" in the country's recent diplomatic efforts to improve ties with Japan strained over wartime history and trade.
The local newspaper report came after National Intelligence Service (NIS) Director Park Jie-won met with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo last week, raising speculation that the spy chief had started to undertake a key role to restore relations between the two countries.
"We express regrets that such an article, which is different from the facts, came in the midst of ongoing pan-government efforts to improve South Korea-Japan ties, in which the foreign ministry standing on a front line of diplomacy works together with the National Assembly and others as one team," the ministry said in a statement.
"As various high-level exchanges between South Korea and Japan materialize through the sharing of information and cooperation with the foreign ministry, the claim that the ministry is being bypassed is groundless," it added.
Allegations of the ministry's diminished role in diplomacy with Japan increased, as Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said in an interview with the broadcaster SBS on Friday that there was not "sufficient" prior consultation related to the NIS chief's visit to Japan. (Yonhap)