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Kono instructs Moon to stop violating int’l law

Aug 17,2019
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Friday he would like Korean President Moon Jae-in to stop Seoul’s alleged violation of international law, effectively rebuffing Moon’s olive branch to end the ongoing diplomatic trade war.

Kono made the remark as he was visiting Serbia during a four-leg European tour, reported Japanese broadcaster NHK.

“I hope President Moon shows the leadership to change [Korea’s] situation of violating international law,” Kono was quoted by NHK as saying, apparently referring to a 1965 bilateral claims agreement, which Tokyo maintains resolved all compensation issues between the two countries.

Korea and Japan are locked in an intertwined diplomatic-economic dispute prompted by Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese companies to pay damages for Koreans’ forced labor during World War II, which Tokyo claims were covered in the 1965 treaty.

Tokyo’s top envoy was cited as saying the two countries would continue talks over their diplomatic and economic disputes, but refrained from extending any conciliatory gestures to Seoul - as Moon did the day before.

In an annual address Thursday commemorating National Liberation Day, when Korea gained independence from Japanese colonial rule in 1945, Moon said he would “gladly join hands” with Japan if Tokyo chose the path of “dialogue and cooperation,” in what local pundits saw as an attempt to dial down tensions between the two neighboring countries.

“Reflecting on the past does not mean clinging to the past but overcoming what had happened and moving toward the future,” Moon said. “We hope that Japan will play a leading role together in facilitating peace and prosperity in East Asia while it contemplates a past that brought misfortune to its neighboring countries.”

Neither the Japanese government nor Prime Minister Shinzo Abe gave any official response to Moon’s speech. But Kono’s comment on Friday hinted that Tokyo was unmoved.

A Japanese government official told the JoongAng Ilbo Friday that Abe’s office firmly stood by the notion that Tokyo will not make any concessions before Seoul does.

“Some people in Korea think Japan might rescind its decision to remove Korea from its ‘white list’ of trusted trading partners before the measure officially goes into effect on Aug. 28,” the official said on the condition of anonymity. “In reality, the possibility of that is near zero.”

Another source in Tokyo with knowledge of Abe’s office told the JoongAng Ilbo that Japan wasn’t responding to Moon’s Liberation Day speech because he failed to lay out any concrete measures to improve ties with Japan.

“President Moon made several comments [about bilateral ties] but didn’t really make any specific suggestion or show any action,” the source said. “I don’t think the Japanese government will ask Seoul for dialogue before Korea comes up with a specific suggestion,” the source continued, “because it’s the Japanese government’s basic stance that the ball is in Korea’s court.”

BY SEO SEUNG-WOOK, LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]