Japan rejects South Korean call for extra steps over 'comfort women'

Director general officals of S. Korea Japan meet

Seoul does not plan to scrap or renegotiate the 2015 bilateral deal on the so-called comfort women, announced Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha Tuesday, though she underscored that the agreement is not a true resolution to the issue of Japan's wartime sexual slavery.

The agreement has been criticized in South Korea, where many people don't believe that Japan has fully made amends for its wartime legacy. Japan did issue an apology as part of the 2015 accord, but did not accept legal responsibility. The deal was reached by the government of President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached in 2016 after months of turmoil and street protests. But South Korea expects Japan to continue efforts to help the former comfort women, she said, noting that they wish for a honest and voluntary apology.

While admitting the deal was flawed, Minister Kang said the South Korean government will not request a renegotiation, as it is an official agreement made between the two governments.

Kang added that South Korea hoped Japan would offer the victims what they still sought - "a voluntary and honest apology".

"Amid efforts to address threats from North Korea, this agreement should be a crucial foundation for cooperation between Japan and South Korea. for building a forward-looking bilateral relationship", he told reporters. The flames were forcing the South Korean Coast Guard's search and rescue team to stay as far as 4.8km away from the tanker, two South Korean officials said.

Japan also agreed to contribute one billion yen toward a fund to support the victims.

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The comfort women issue has been a regular cause for contention between Japan and neighbours China and North and South Korea since the war.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, said Tuesday that Tokyo would ask Seoul to carry out the deal under its original terms.

The treatment of the women, known euphemistically as "comfort women", is one of the most painful legacies of Japan's occupation of Korea from 1910 to the end of World War II in 1945.

The latest woman to have died was just 13 when she was taken and forced to serve Japanese soldiers in a brothel in Manchuria.

In 2011, activists installed a statue honoring the women in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, touching off a diplomatic furor. In addition to Koreans, women from the Philippines, China, and other countries invaded by Japan were forced into sexual slavery.

"We can by no means accept South Korea's demands for additional measures", Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono told reporters in Tokyo. Abe is leaning toward declining an invitation to next month's Winter Olympics in South Korea, despite the potential for top-level talks between the countries.

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