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Japan questions Seoul’s plan to raise awareness of “comfort women”

TOKYO — Foreign Minister Taro Kono on Tuesday expressed doubts about South Korea’s plan to deepen global understanding of so-called “comfort women” as a case of serious human rights violations.


Kono said the move is “against the spirit of the Japan-South Korea bilateral agreement” to finally and irreversibly settle the issue of women who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, adding that Japan will confirm what Seoul’s intentions are.


“We’ve talked about promoting bilateral relations in a forward-looking manner only recently so I’m finding (the move) a little bit suspicious,” Kono told reporters after a Cabinet meeting.


South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha told a press conference on Monday that her ministry will unveil plans by the end of this month to raise awareness about the comfort women issue as a case of “wartime sexual violence” that represents a serious violation of human rights.


When Kono visited Seoul last week to confirm closer coordination with South Korea and the United States over denuclearizing North Korea, he and Kang agreed to seek future-oriented ties between their two countries.


This year marks the 20th anniversary of a bilateral declaration that sought to improve ties between Tokyo and Seoul toward the 21st century, even as wartime history, especially the thorny issue of the women euphemistically referred to as comfort women, has cast a shadow.


“If something like this continues, it will become difficult to build future-oriented ties,” Kono said.

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