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Gov’t frets over response to ROK demand for more steps on comfort women issue

The Japanese government intends to continue to demand that the ROK government implement the bilateral agreement on the comfort women issue. It will not agree to any discussions that might lead to the renegotiation of the Japan-ROK agreement, including consultations on what to do with the 1 billion yen paid out by Japan. While Japan indicates that it will continue to cooperate with the ROK in responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile issues, there is growing resentment against the ROK government, so it is reckoned that this will definitely affect policy toward North Korea.


A ministerial meeting on the North Korea issues will be held in Vancouver, Canada on Jan. 16, which Foreign Minister Taro Kono and ROK Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-hwa will both attend. Kono intends to query her on the ROK’s intentions at this meeting.


The ROK has not offered a clear explanation on its new policy of paying for the 1 billion yen that the Japanese government has already provided. Japan is wary that President Moon Jae-in’s proposal for Japan’s 1 billion yen to be used for purposes to be agreed upon by Japan, the former comfort women, and citizens’ groups may result in the de facto renegotiation of the bilateral agreement.


Meanwhile, the level of protest to be lodged against the ROK government is also an agonizing issue because giving the impression that Japan-U.S.-ROK cooperation has been undermined by the deterioration of the Japan-ROK relationship will only benefit North Korea.


Moon has indicated his intention to separate the history issues and security and economic cooperation. A Japanese source also voiced his agreement, stating “response to North Korea will be handled separately.” However, certain government officials also expressed their doubt about “whether it is possible to lodge a strong protest on the one hand but cooperate on the other.” There is also growing concern about Moon’s mention of the possibility of a North-South summit. A government source said: “We need to caution them against this.” (Slightly abridged)

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