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Abe tells Moon ‘comfort women’ deal is final

Moon (right) talks with Abe (left) during their meeting in Pyeongchang. — AFP photo

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe restated Tokyo’s opposition to revising a 2015 agreement on ‘comfort women’ in talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday, calling the deal a promise between nations and the basis of two-way ties.

Abe also said, however, that the two leaders had agreed the two countries needed to create a ‘future-oriented’ relationship.

Japan and South Korea share a bitter history that includes Japan’s 1910-45 colonisation of the peninsula and the use of ‘comfort women’, a euphemism for women – many Korean – forced to work in Japanese wartime brothels.

A renewed feud over the issue has frayed ties even as America’s two key Asian allies confront the challenge of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

Under the 2015 deal reached under Abe and Moon’s predecessor, Japan apologised to former comfort women and provided a ¥1 billion (US$9 million) fund to help them. South Korea earlier this year said the agreement failed to meet victims’ needs and called for more steps, but Japan insists the agreement should not be changed.

“The Japan-South Korea agreement is one that finally and irreversibly resolves (the issue). It is a promise between the two countries and the foundation of our bilateral ties,” Abe told reporters after meeting Moon in Pyeongchang, where he will attend the opening of the Winter Olympic Games.

Abe, whose decision to attend the Games angered some of his conservative backers, has said the agreement will not be altered ‘by even one millimetre’.

Moon, speaking at the start of the talks, also said he wanted to create a firm basis for forward-looking ties in his ‘frank’ talks with the Japanese leader.  — Reuters