Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged South Korea to remove a new statue dedicated to the girls and women hauled into Japan's military brothels before and during the war, and called on Seoul to stick to the bilateral agreement that was inked in 2015 to settle the thorny issue once and for all.

"The South Korean side should show its sincerity," the prime minister said on a TV program aired Sunday, referring to the golden statue of a seated young girl installed late last month outside the Japanese Consulate in Busan.

The statue is one of a number in South Korea representing those forced to provide sex for Imperial Japanese troops before and during World War II. Japan euphemistically refers to them as the ianfu, or "comfort women."