Senior officials have urged South Korea to attach no preconditions to a potential summit with Japan, citing the “comfort women” issue as a potential stumbling block.
They were speaking Tuesday in response to remarks a day earlier by South Korean President Park Geun-hye that she is open to a summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, Park referred to the need to address the issue of South Korean women forced to work in wartime Japanese military brothels.
South Korea “should not attach preconditions for a meeting between the leaders of neighboring countries,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.
Citing the comfort women issue, Suga said: “Japan maintains the basic position that it should not be made into a political and diplomatic issue. We want to explain this to South Korea.”
Speaking to reporters separately, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Japan “considers South Korea the most important neighboring country” and that it hopes to “promote bilateral relations in a future-oriented fashion and from a broader perspective.”
Kishida said Japan has made “maximum efforts” to address the comfort women issue, indicating Tokyo is unlikely to take further measures.
Japan has maintained that all compensation issues were settled under a 1965 bilateral treaty that normalized diplomatic ties. Despite that official position, Japan provided money in a form of atonement to former victims through the Asian Women’s Fund, a pool of private donations set up at the government’s initiative in 1995 and run through 2007.
South Korea has repeatedly demanded that Japan settle the issue in a way that is acceptable to the surviving victims, including with an apology and compensation.
Only 55 are still alive, and their average age is 88, the Yonhap News Agency has reported.
Japan ruled the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945.