HIROSHIMA – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged South Korea on Tuesday to uphold a 1965 agreement to settle property claims stemming from wartime grievances. He said mutual trust is at stake at a time of high tensions.
Speaking at a news conference in Hiroshima, Abe said South Korea has “unilaterally” breached the accord that settled the issue of compensation for wartime laborers during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
“When we think about the current Japan-South Korea relationship, the biggest issue we have is of trust, or whether promises made between states are kept,” Abe said.
South Korea has “violated the treaty that served as the basis for us to normalize ties,” the prime minister said as he called on Seoul to abide by the agreement “first and foremost.”
Ties between Tokyo and Seoul have deteriorated sharply since a series of South Korean court rulings late last year that ordered Japanese firms to compensate victims of wartime labor.
Based on the bilateral accord, Japan maintains that issues related to financial compensation were settled “finally and completely.” Under the pact, Tokyo provided Seoul with $300 million in grants and another $200 million in loans in a lump sum financial deal.
South Korea has not accepted Japan’s requests to solve the latest dispute via bilateral consultations or an arbitration panel involving a third country.
Tensions between the Asian neighbors have shown no signs of easing following Tokyo’s tightening last month of export controls on some South Korea-bound exports due to security reasons.
Last Friday, Japan decided to take South Korea off its list of nations given preferential status as a trading partner with simplified export procedures.
The step drew a sharp response from South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who called the decision “very reckless.”
An official of South Korea’s presidential office on Friday indicated that Seoul may reconsider continuing the General Security of Military Information Agreement, a military intelligence-sharing pact with Tokyo, in an apparent attempt to pressure Japan into softening its stance on the trade disputes.
Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry officials on Monday said Japan has protested to South Korea after local media reported the country’s military is considering conducting a defense drill later this month near and on a pair of islets disputed by the two nations.
The two nations are at odds over the South Korea-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan, called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea.
South Korea conducts the drill twice a year, deploying destroyers and patrol planes. This year’s exercise had been postponed from June to avoid worsening bilateral ties, Yonhap news agency reported Sunday.