Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi urged South Korea to "immediately" take action against a court ruling ordering the Japanese government to pay damages to former "comfort women," which was finalized Saturday.
"The ruling clearly goes against international law and an agreement between the Japanese and South Korean governments. It is extremely regrettable and utterly unacceptable," Motegi said in a statement issued after the Seoul court's Jan. 8 ruling became final with Tokyo not appealing.
"Japan again strongly urges South Korea to immediately take appropriate measures to correct this state in violation of international law under its responsibility as a state," Motegi said.
Japan has said the lawsuit by the former comfort women, who suffered under Japan’s military brothel system before and during World War II, should be rejected on the grounds of sovereign immunity — a principle under international law that allows a state to be shielded against the jurisdiction of foreign courts.
It also asserted the ruling goes against the 1965 bilateral agreement that settled all claims related to Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula and the 2015 agreement the two governments struck to "finally and irreversibly" resolve the comfort women issue.
In a bid to improve bilateral ties, already at a historic low over another dispute on wartime labor, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at a news conference Monday that he wants to discuss a resolution to the row with Japan.
But Japanese officials have been against the idea of holding talks to find mutual ground, saying it is not Japan's responsibility but up to the South Korean side, which it says broke international and bilateral agreements, to come up with a resolution.