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Japan, S. Korea at odds over "comfort women" statues

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and his South Korean
counterpart Yun Byung Se were at odds Friday over so-called "comfort
women" statues South Korean civic groups have erected near Japanese
diplomatic establishments in Seoul and Busan, according to a Japanese
official.

Meeting on the sidelines of a Group of 20 foreign ministerial
meeting in Bonn, Germany, Kishida demanded that South Korea remove a
statue symbolizing comfort women that stands in front of the Japanese
consulate in Busan, the official said.

The statue was set up in December, an act that ran counter to a
landmark 2015 bilateral agreement to "finally and irreversibly"
resolve a protracted dispute over comfort women.

Referring to the agreement he struck with Kishida, Yun was
quoted by the official as saying that the South Korean government
"will make maximum efforts" to implement it.

Under the accord, South Korea promised it "will strive to
solve," in consultation with civil society organizations, Japan's
objections to a comfort women statue in front of the Japanese Embassy
in Seoul.

Japan has demanded that South Korea remove the statues in Seoul
and Busan in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic
Relations, which requires the receiving state to prevent any
disturbance of the peace of a diplomatic mission or impairment of its
dignity.

It was the first time Kishida and Yun have met since Japan
recalled Yasumasa Nagamine, Japan's ambassador to South Korea, on
Jan. 9 in protest over the installation of the Busan statue -- and
the South Korean government's failure to stop it.

The Japanese government has said it will not return Nagamine to
Seoul unless it sees progress in the statue issue.

The Seoul statue was erected by a civic group in 2011.

In Friday's meeting, Kishida and Yun affirmed close coordination
in dealing with North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and
ballistic missiles, according to the official. (Feb. 17)


Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida (L) and his South Korean
counterpart Yun Byung Se