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Taiwan, Japan to hold talks on ‘comfort women’ issue next month

Kyodo

Taiwan and Japan are scheduled to hold talks in January on the long-standing issue of Taiwanese women forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels before and during World War II, the island’s foreign ministry said Wednesday.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister David Lin told reporters that Japan has “agreed in principle” to begin negotiations on the issue at the beginning of January.

“It will take time to see the final result, but we hope there will be some progress made in the near future,” he said.

Taiwan, which was under Japanese rule from 1894 to 1945, is estimated to have had about 2,000 “comfort women,” of whom 85 have been confirmed as victims, according to the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation. However, there are now only four alive in Taiwan and their average age is about 90.

After Japan and South Korea on Monday struck a deal to resolve the issue of Korean women similarly victimized, Taiwan stepped up efforts to ask Japan to return to the negotiation table.

Lin, who held a news conference Tuesday, said he already asked the island’s de facto ambassador to Japan to personally supervise the negotiation process.

While he said the position of Taiwan’s government on comfort women has been clear, he emphasized the ministry still needs to know the demands of individual victims.

In Monday’s deal, Japan and South Korea agreed to set up a new fund amounting to some ¥1 billion ($8.3 million) for the women, with the money coming from the Japanese government’s budget. Lin said the ministry wants to know whether such a move is also the wish of the Taiwanese victims.

The Taiwan government has been asking the Japanese government to offer an official apology and compensation to the victims.

A working group consisting of related government agencies, former comfort women and the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation was established in 1992 to handle the issue.

Seeking to reach a clearer and more concrete consensus on the issue, Lin said the working group will meet on Jan. 6.

Emphasizing that the communication channel with Japan has been smooth, Lin said he has seen some “positive development.”

The Interchange Association, Tokyo’s de facto mission in Taiwan, which acts as a negotiator in the absence of formal diplomatic ties, said the dispute over the comfort women issue with South Korea has “affected bilateral relations.”

As this year marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, both sides made efforts to reach an agreement on “finally and irreversibly” resolving the protracted dispute.

As for the disputes involving other countries, the association said it will face them “honestly” in accordance with the “different situations” of each country.