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Japan reacts sharply to ROK leader’s comment on comfort women accord

All papers wrote that the Japanese government filed a protest on Thursday with the ROK government to President Moon’s controversial statement saying that the comfort women issue cannot be resolved with the 2015 bilateral agreement with Tokyo. Foreign Minister Kono reacted to this statement by telling the press yesterday: “If the South Korean government tries to change a pact that has already been concluded, bilateral relations will become unmanageable. We will never accept such a change.” Tokyo conveyed to Seoul that the only option is for the two governments to uphold the pact. The Abe administration is bracing for the Moon administration to ask it to come up with additional measures, such as a letter from Prime Minister Abe to the former comfort women.


With the escalated tension over North Korea in mind, Tokyo is hoping that President Moon will choose to honor the pact so as to maintain close trilateral cooperation with the United States. However, the premier may decide not to attend the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February or recall Japan’s ambassador to South Korea if Seoul moves to dismiss the landmark agreement. Nikkei claimed that Abe is already inclined to skip the PyeongChang Olympics, quoting a GOJ source as saying: “It has become difficult for the premier to travel to South Korea. Nothing good would come out of such a trip at this juncture.” The daily said the South Korean leader is in a “catch-22 situation” between Japan and the international community and his left-leaning supporters at home. 


Asahi wrote that although the ROK leader stopped short of disclosing whether or not South Korea will continue to uphold the pact, the South Korean media called his statement a “de-facto declaration of abrogation.” The paper speculated that as Moon has instructed relevant authorities to look into “follow-up measures” to address the suffering of the elderly victims, the president may announce what he plans to do with the pact around Jan. 10.  

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