Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday expressed his worries about soured relations between Tokyo and Seoul in a meeting with the outgoing South Korean ambassador to Japan.
During a courtesy call from the ambassador, Lee Su-hoon, at the Prime Minister’s Office in Tokyo, Abe expressed his concerns about bilateral ties and asked that they be passed along to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.
Abe was referring to rulings by South Korea’s top court in favor of Korean plaintiffs in damages lawsuits against Japanese companies over forced wartime labor and recent developments related to surviving former “comfort women.” The term refers to women who provided sex — including those against their will — to Japanese troops before and during World War II.
Lee, who is set to be replaced by Nam Gwan-pyo, a former second deputy chief of the National Security Office, told Abe that he will convey the message to the Moon government.
Regarding the wartime labor lawsuits, Tokyo has urged Seoul to abide by a 1965 bilateral treaty, which Japan says fully settled all compensation claims. In January, the Japanese government proposed bilateral talks in line with the accord, but the Moon administration has yet to reply to the proposal.
In South Korea, there have been moves aimed at undermining a 2015 bilateral agreement meant to resolve the comfort women issue “finally and irreversibly,” including repeated remarks by a top lawmaker demanding an apology from Emperor Akihito.