• Kyodo, Jiji, staff report

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Japan may postpone sending new ambassador Koichi Aiboshi to South Korea in retaliation against a recent court ruling in Seoul that ordered Tokyo to pay damages to former “comfort women” who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II, government sources said Thursday.

The government is considering taking the option after the Seoul Central District Court last week ordered 100 million won (¥9.5 million) in damages be paid each to 12 such women.

Japan has said the case should be dropped in light of the principle of sovereign immunity under international law that allows a state to be shielded against the jurisdiction of foreign courts.

As for the possibility of taking Seoul to the International Court of Justice, Tokyo nevertheless remains cautious, with one of the sources saying, “There is no guarantee that (the ICJ’s proceedings) will progress as hoped.”

Japan has asserted the ruling violates a 1965 bilateral agreement that settled compensation issues related its 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and an accord reached by the two countries in 2015 to “finally and irreversibly” resolve the comfort women issue.

Japanese officials have said they do not want the issue to come under the international spotlight in an undesirable manner, believing that bringing the dispute to the ICJ may increase such risks.

Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi has said Japan will respond “resolutely” against the ruling and is considering “various options.”

Japan, which has already decided not to appeal the ruling, is waiting to see if South Korea takes any action before deciding whether to postpone sending the new ambassador, whose appointment was approved by the Cabinet on Jan. 8.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in Thursday mentioned the need to fix his country’s relations with Japan in a meeting with outgoing Japanese Ambassador to South Korea Koji Tomita.

Moon told Tomita that it is necessary for South Korea and Japan to restore their constructive, future-oriented relations at an early date, according to an announcement by the presidential office.

Tomita is set leave South Korea to take office as ambassador to the United States.

South Korea and Japan are the most important partners to each other as they work to ensure the peace and stability of Northeast Asia and the entire world, Moon was quoted as telling Tomita.

They discussed bilateral issues, the announcement said.

Moon also met with next South Korean Ambassador to Japan, Kang Chang-il, requesting him to strive for dialogue with Tokyo.

Even if problems occur between the two countries, the problems must not be let to negatively affect the bilateral relations, which must be developed in a future-oriented way, Moon told Kang.

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