Foreign Ministry regrets Japanese official’s stance

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Foreign Ministry regrets Japanese official’s stance

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Friday expressed “deep regrets” over a senior Japanese official’s criticism of President Moon Jae-in’s remarks this week on an escalating diplomatic dispute over Japan’s wartime forced labor.

Japan’s State Minister for Foreign Affairs Masahisa Sato blasted Moon on Twitter for having said that Japan should respect a court decision in Korea over the issue, and that it cannot do anything to intervene in the judicial process.

Moon made the remarks during his first press conference of the new year on Thursday, amid the dispute over last week’s court approval of a petition to seize Korea-based assets of Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal at the request of victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule.

“We think it is deeply regrettable that [Sato] has responded in this manner,” the ministry official said on the condition of anonymity. “It is Japan that should squarely face history and have a humble attitude.”

During the press conference, Moon called on Tokyo to have a “more modest position,” attributing the dispute to the two countries’ “unfortunate” past. He also said it was “undesirable” for Japanese politicians to politicize the issue and escalate the controversy.

Last year, the Supreme Court in Seoul ordered the Japanese company to compensate four South Koreans for their forced labor during World War II. After the company refused to comply with the ruling, the plaintiffs requested asset seizure.

Japan has requested government-to-government talks based on Article III of the 1965 treaty between Seoul and Tokyo that normalized diplomatic ties. Seoul has not made any decision on the request.

The treaty stipulates that the two sides are to settle any dispute related to the treaty primarily through diplomatic channels. Tokyo has argued that all reparation-related issues pertaining to its colonization of South Korea were settled through the treaty.

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