August 07, 2019 12:51
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday accused Korea of "violating an international pact" that waived all compensation claims for colonial atrocities in return for lump sum reparations.
Abe chose a memorial for atom bomb victims in Hiroshima to air his grievances with Korea. Speaking to reporters after the memorial service, Abe said, "The biggest issue we have is of trust, or whether promises made between states are kept."
The comments come after Japan removed Korea from a "whitelist" of preferential trading partners last week. Abe was reiterating Tokyo's position that the 1965 treaty must stand despite a ruling by the Supreme Court here that pacts between states cannot override forced labor victims' individual compensation rights.
Asked if he intends to speak with President Moon Jae-in at the UN General Assembly next month, Abe decline to comment, saying he did not know that Moon was attending.
After announcing restrictions on exports of key high-tech materials to Korea, Abe told lawmakers that his government "cannot grant preferential status" to a country that does not keep its pledge. He added that compensating forced labor victims is not a historical issue but a matter of international agreement and stressed that Korea relinquished all rights with the treaty.
Abe also accused Korea of breaking a dubious 2015 pact between Seoul and Tokyo that indirectly compensates women forced into sexual slavery but lets Tokyo off admitting official responsibility. The pact was signed by the Park Geun-hye administration, but Moon scrapped it since the victims were not consulted and some parts were kept secret.
Abe's decision to strike Korea from the whitelist is gaining support from the Japanese public. A survey on Tuesday by FNN, which is affiliated to Fuji TV, showed 67.6 percent support and only 19.4 percent against. A poll by TBS affiliate JNN on Monday showed 64 percent support and 18 percent against. The same survey by JNN last month was 58-24.
A diplomatic source in Tokyo said, "The spreading Korean boycott of Japan is being reflected in public opinion in Japan."
Abe's cabinet is expected to be emboldened by the polls, and the next move is expected to be more stringent export curbs.
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