Tokyo criticized Seoul on Tuesday after South Korea’s foreign minister raised at a U.N. committee concerns about a 2015 bilateral deal on “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels.
“We cannot accept the minister’s comments,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference in Tokyo.
Japan maintains that the December 2015 deal remains valid even after a change of government in South Korea, and that neither country should criticize the other on the comfort women issue in the international arena.
But the administration of South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said it found fault with the negotiation process, which took place under Moon’s impeached predecessor Park Geun-hye, and requested that Tokyo take further action that goes beyond the deal.
“The Japan-South Korea agreement is a promise between countries, and it’s an international and universal principle that such promises must be responsibly executed, even after a change of government,” Suga said.
Addressing the high-level segment of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said Monday that the agreement “clearly lacked a victim-centered approach.”
She said the South Korean government “will take steps to help heal the scars (of the victims) and restore their dignity and honor,” without elaborating.
Junichi Ihara, Japan’s ambassador to the international organizations in Geneva, protested to his South Korean counterpart Choi Kyong-lim soon after Kang’s remarks, calling them “totally unacceptable.”
“An issue that Japan and South Korea have agreed to finally and irreversibly resolve should not be brought up at the United Nations,” Ihara said.
“The Japan-South Korea deal was agreed between the two countries as a final and irreversible resolution, and this can be achieved by the South Korean government steadily implementing what it needs to,” Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday after a Cabinet meeting.
Japan similarly protested last week after South Korean Gender Equality and Family Minister Chung Hyun-back described the women as “sex slaves” at a session of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, also in Geneva. The Japanese Foreign Ministry said the two countries agreed in the 2015 deal that the term should be avoided