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Japan 'cannot accept' new S. Korean policy on 'comfort women' deal

Foreign Minister Taro Kono (Mainichi)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan "cannot accept" South Korea's new policy position on a 2015 agreement between the two countries over women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, Foreign Minister Taro Kono said Tuesday.

    "The steady implementation of this agreement is both countries' duty to the international community," Kono told reporters at the ministry shortly after the South Korean announcement.

    While Seoul will not seek to renegotiate the deal, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha said the South Korean government plans to match the 1 billion yen ($8.8 million) provided by the Japanese government under the deal with its own contribution while discussing what to do with the Japanese money.

    "We cannot accept at all South Korea's demand of further action from Japan despite the fact that, with this 2015 agreement, we affirmed the final and irreversible resolution of the comfort women issue," Kono said.

    While Kono said Japan will "swiftly protest" the new policy through the "appropriate (channels) in Tokyo and Seoul," he expressed confidence that South Korea "is aware that this agreement is one of the cornerstones of future-oriented bilateral relations."

    He said the Japanese government wants a further explanation of what Seoul means by matching the Japanese contribution.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, the government's top spokesman, said ahead of the announcement that Tokyo is "not thinking of moving even a millimeter (on the deal)."

    The December 2015 deal, reached on the watch of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and subsequently impeached former South Korean President Park Geun Hye, was agreed at the time to "finally and irreversibly" settle the "comfort women" issue.

    The deal saw Japan put 1 billion yen into a South Korean foundation to support the women and their families, while South Korea agreed to "make efforts" to remove a statue commemorating the women in front of Japan's embassy in Seoul.

    But after Park's successor, President Moon Jae In, took office last May, he ordered a task force to re-examine the process that led to the agreement, saying the majority of South Koreans did not approve of it.

    In a Dec. 27 report, a task force under Foreign Minister Kang found that the Park administration did not sufficiently consult former comfort women before agreeing to the deal.

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