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Japan considers recalling ambassador to Korea

Dec 30,2017
TOKYO - Japan is considering recalling its ambassador to Korea to protest President Moon Jae-in’s denunciation of the 2015 bilateral reparations deal for Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women, Japanese media reported Friday.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe held a meeting at his residence on Thursday with Foreign Ministry officials, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported, to discuss the country’s response to Moon challenging the accord. The report also said a plan to bring back Japan’s ambassador to Korea, Yasumasa Nagamine, was discussed at the meeting.

If recalled, it will be the second time for Nagamine to leave Korea this year due to diplomatic friction over the “comfort women” issue. The Japanese government recalled him in January in protest after civic groups built a symbolic statute of a sex slavery victim in front of its consulate in Busan. He returned to Seoul after 85 days.

On Dec. 28, 2015, during the Park Geun-hye presidency, foreign ministers of the two countries announced a three-point statement that included a Japanese government apology and a multimillion-dollar fund for the victims. The two countries agreed that the settlement was “final and irreversible,” as long as Japan faithfully followed through with its promises.

After a months-long investigation into the two-year-old accord, the Korean Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday that the agreement failed to reflect the opinions of the victims. Seoul and Tokyo also kept from the public some arrangements when they announced the deal in 2015, it said.

Moon said Thursday that the agreement is highly flawed and does not settle the issue. He also hinted strongly that he will call for renegotiations.

A senior Foreign Ministry official told the Yomiuri Shimbun that the Japanese government is expecting Korea will demand a new deal. “It is possible they will demand that Prime Minister Abe send a letter to the former comfort women,” he was quoted as saying.

The newspaper said Abe and Foreign Ministry officials decided on Thursday that they will reject all demands for amendments to the deal. Their response will be based on Korea’s actions, the report said.

The newspaper and other Japanese media, including Nihon Keizai Shimbun, also reported that Abe is considering not attending the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games in February.

Abe started his six-day holiday leave Friday. He will spend the vacation at a hotel in Tokyo and hold a press conference on Jan. 4 after paying a visit to the Ise Grand Shrine, the holiest site in Japan’s Shinto religion. During his media conference, he may address the issue.

BY SEO SEOUNG-WOOK [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]