Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that settling the issue of wartime labor is currently a top priority for Japan and South Korea.
Abe made the remark at a meeting with former Chief Cabinet Secretary Takeo Kawamura, who just returned from visiting South Korea. Kawamura currently serves as secretary-general of a group of Japanese lawmakers that promote bilateral ties.
Speaking to reporters in Tokyo earlier in the day, Kawamura revealed a remark by South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon at their overnight meeting in Seoul.
Lee was quoted as saying that the current dispute between the two countries over Japan’s tightening of export controls on South Korea and South Korea’s scrapping of its military information-sharing pact with Japan should be resolved as a package.
Kawamura said he told Lee that the bilateral situation is unlikely to improve unless the wartime labor issue is settled first.
The Japanese government is urging South Korea to correct what Tokyo says is Seoul’s violation of a 1965 bilateral agreement in the wake of South Korean court rulings ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to South Korean plaintiffs over wartime forced labor during World War II.
Tokyo takes the position that the issue of war-related claims, including wartime labor cases, was resolved by the 1965 agreement.
At the meeting with Kawamura on Tuesday, Abe said he wants South Korea to abide by the international agreement.
The South Korean side believes Japan’s tighter export controls are aimed at retaliating against South Korea over the wartime labor row.
Following the Japanese trade measures, Seoul decided last month to terminate the Japan-South Korea General Security of Military Information Agreement, or GSOMIA.