• Kyodo

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The government will seek confirmation from South Korea that the ¥1 billion ($9.8 million) transfer from Tokyo needed to complete their landmark deal settling the “comfort women” issue does not constitute reparations, sources said Sunday.

The move is intended to make Tokyo’s stance clear that the money will be disbursed to a South Korean fund set up to help the victims under the 1965 Japan-South Korea basic treaty, and an attached pact, which says the issue of property and claims rights between the two countries “is settled completely and finally,” the Japanese sources said.

Japan will hold Foreign Ministry director-general-level talks with South Korea on the issue involving Korean women forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military during the war, after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reshuffles his Cabinet on Wednesday, they said.

In a major breakthrough in bilateral relations, Japan and South Korea agreed last December to resolve the issue “finally and irreversibly,” with the terms of the deal including the ¥1 billion pledge from Japan to the fund. The Reconciliation and Healing Foundation was formally launched on Thursday.

Some from Japan’s ruling and opposition parties, as well as from conservative elements, say the contribution will create the impression Japan has acknowledged legal responsibility and paid compensation.

The South Korean government has appeared to bear in mind those who are opposing the bilateral deal and are demanding Japan take such responsibility.

It remains to be seen if Tokyo and Seoul can find clear common ground on how they view the money at the director-general-level talks expected to be held by the end of this month.

“The ¥1 billion is not reparations. We have to ensure the money will not be regarded as such. Japan has been consulting with South Korea on this point,” one of the sources said.

Another source said it would be better if Japan and South Korea could share “a viewpoint of building future-oriented ties” through the funding project.

After the Dec. 28 deal, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Tokyo “is painfully aware of responsibilities” over the comfort women issue, which, under the involvement of the Japanese military during and before World War II, was a “grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women.”

It will also be a point of contention whether Japanese and South Korean officials can share the view that the responsibilities Kishida mentioned do not cover legal responsibility.

Abe said in the House of Councilors in January that Japan’s stance of the issue having been resolved completely and finally through the 1965 accord had not undergone any change after the December deal, effectively brushing aside Tokyo’s legal responsibility. The accord resumed bilateral ties.

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