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S. Korea Supreme Court's forced labor ruling '100%' Seoul's responsibility: FM Kono

Foreign Minister Taro Kono (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- It is up to the South Korean government to deal with an Oct. 30 ruling by the country's Supreme Court ordering a Japanese steel giant to pay compensation to four former forced laborers, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said on Nov. 1.

In response to Seoul's calls that "Let us both (Japan and South Korea) use wisdom" concerning the ruling against Japanese firm Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corp., Kono commented, "I believe 100 percent of the responsibility (for dealing with the ruling) lies with South Korea, and I intend to negotiate the terms under that assumption."

Kono's comment was disclosed by Shinpei Matsushita, chief of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)'s Foreign Affairs Division, after their meeting.

"It's an inconceivable decision in light of international law," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a House of Representatives Budget Committee session on the same day. "We will respond resolutely while examining all options, including international adjudication," he said, suggesting Japan could take the issue to the International Court of Justice. "We are strongly expecting a proactive response from the South Korean government," Abe added.

Lawsuits have been filed in South Korea against more than 70 Japanese companies contending forced labor during Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula from 1910 to 1945, and the Supreme Court ruling this time could open the door to a string of compensation orders from South Korean courts.

Japanese government bodies, including the Foreign Affairs and the Economy, Trade and Industry ministries, have launched information sessions for Japanese firms on Tokyo's position on the ruling as well as the 1965 Japan-South Korea agreement that theoretically resolved all South Korean war compensation claims.

A joint meeting of LDP groups, including the party's Foreign Affairs Division, on Nov. 1 decided to call on the Japanese government to propose arbitration with South Korea based on the terms of the 1965 agreement.

Division chief Matsushita delivered the written decision to Kono, who responded that he would keep an eye on Seoul's actions. Kono also instructed Japan's foreign missions to use local media outlets to emphasize Tokyo's position that the compensation issue was resolved by the 1965 bilateral agreement.

"We can't wait (for Seoul) forever," Kono said. "Of course, we are preparing our next move."

(Japanese original by Shinichi Akiyama, Political News Department)

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