TOKYO ― South Korea and Japan on Tuesday agreed to strengthen their ties based on the recent breakthrough made on the issue of women who were forced into wartime sexual slavery by the Japanese.
Referring to the Dec. 28 agreement reached between the two countries, Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yasumasa Nagamine said it “confirmed that the issue of comfort women has been resolved finally and irreversibly resolved.”
“With this very positive momentum, it is timely to have this economic consultation today, and I am very much pleased that we can discuss matters to strengthen our economic relationship,” said Nagamine.
He met with his South Korean counterpart Deputy Foreign Minister of Economic Affairs Lee Tae-ho in Tokyo on Tuesday for the first high-level economic talks this year.
Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Lee Tae-ho (right) meets his Japanese counterpart Yasumasa Nagamine in Tokyo on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
In response to Nagamine’s comments, Lee acknowledged developments in the area of comfort women. He added that “(South Korea) believes, with the faithful implementation of the agreement, the two countries can … step into the new era of cooperation.”
The latest meeting marks the first of its kind since January 2015. Political watchers said it is also noteworthy that it comes amid thawing relations between the two nations.
Last month, Korea and Japan agreed on a compensation plan aimed at resolving the issue of comfort women once and for all. The deal was met with considerable controversy from the public in both countries, but the two governments bulldozed ahead.
Tokyo has agreed to put $8.3 million into a South Korean fund to support the 46 surviving comfort women and to help restore their “honor and dignity” and repair their “psychological wounds.”
The two neighbors were also thrown together to cooperate on geopolitical safety following North Korea’s hydrogen bomb test.
Top diplomats from South Korea, Japan and the U.S. are now slated to hold three-way talks in Tokyo this weekend to coordinate their response to Pyongyang’s provocative moves.
By Kim Ji-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Korea Herald correspondent