Yasuhiro Morimoto, the Japanese consul general in Busan, was replaced Thursday after an unusually short term of about one year in which he was temporarily recalled from South Korea amid diplomatic friction involving the "comfort women" issue, the Foreign Ministry said.

Consuls general usually serve for two to three years, but Morimoto, who took up the post in June 2016, is believed to have criticized Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's policy toward South Korea in a private meeting, a government source said.

His successor is Hisashi Michigami, Japan's consul general in Dubai, according to the ministry.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference that he did not know the reason behind Morimoto's replacement and claimed it was "a usual personnel change."

In January, the Abe administration temporarily recalled Morimoto along with Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Yasumasa Nagamine to protest the erection of a statue in Busan symbolizing the comfort women, Japan's euphemism for the mostly Korean women who were forced into Japan's wartime military brothels.

The two remained in Japan until April.

The statue was installed by a South Korean civic group last December outside the Japanese Consulate in the southern port city. The statue was reportedly taken down once but reinstalled shortly after Defense Minister Tomomi Inada paid a visit to war-related Yasukuni Shrine upon her return from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's historic visit to the sensitive USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The shrine is criticized by Japan's neighbors of glorifying Japan's wartime aggression.