All papers reported on a MOFA announcement on Monday that it officially asked the South Korean government earlier in the day to accept a Japanese request for the launch of a three-member arbitration panel including a member from a third country to iron out bilateral differences over the South Korean Supreme Court rulings ordering Japanese firms to pay compensation to Korean citizens requisitioned to work during the colonial rule of the peninsula. The request, which was based on the 1965 Agreement on the Settlement of Problems Concerning Property and Claim, was conveyed by Vice Foreign Minister Akiba to South Korean Ambassador to Japan Nam yesterday. Foreign Minister Kono reportedly justified the request by telling the Diet on Monday: “We have been extremely keen to see South Korea address the issue. However, South Korean Premier Li, who is responsible for the matter, has said that there is a limit to what the Moon administration can do.” Nikkei said Tokyo chose to take a different path to achieve a breakthrough by involving a third party in the bilateral impasse, while Mainichi conjectured that the Abe administration is taking a hard line toward Seoul based on the assessment that this will please conservative voters ahead of the Upper House election.
Because the launch of such a committee is not legally binding, the papers believe that Seoul will not heed the Japanese request. The ROK Foreign Ministry reportedly commented on Japan’s request by saying: “We will look into it carefully while taking into account various elements.” According to Asahi, a South Korean diplomatic source said that if the ROK agreed to the Japanese request, bilateral relations would “get out of control” due to public reaction. Yomiuri speculated that the Moon administration will continue to treat the matter with benign neglect in the belief that the friction over requisitioned workers is a civilian dispute between the South Korean victims and the Japanese enterprises involved. Sankei speculated that although the South Korean leader has voiced hope for holding talks with Prime Minister Abe when he visits Osaka next month to attend the G20 confab, Abe probably will not agree to hold such a summit unless Seoul takes tangible steps to resolve the dispute.