Tokyo, Sep 24 (efe-epa).- Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told South Korean President Moon Jae-in Thursday that it is in Seoul’s hands to resolve the diplomatic friction unleashed by a dispute related to wartime Japanese colonization.
Suga urged Moon to create an opportunity for Japan and South Korea to “return to a constructive relationship,” a spokesperson told reporters at the end of the 20-minute telephone conversation between the two leaders.
The conversation was the first in nine months between the leaders of the countries, and the first since Suga took office last week. He maintains the position of his predecessor, Shinzo Abe, before the neighboring country.
The dispute between Tokyo and Seoul is centered around forced labor imposed on South Korean citizens during the Japanese occupation in World War II.
Diplomatic friction between the two countries over this and other historical issues intensified in 2018 after the Supreme Court of Korea ordered a Japanese steelmaker to compensate a group of South Korean workers or their heirs for labor.
The Japanese government has criticized the ruling, claiming that it goes against a bilateral agreement signed in 1965, under which Park Chung-hee’s military junta received hundreds of millions of dollars from Tokyo to end the matter.
Most of this money, which was intended to compensate millions of affected workers, was invested in basic industries and infrastructure, which is why thousands of victims have recently sued the South Korean state.
Tokyo believes that the case was settled with the compensation it paid, and fears that dozens of its companies sued for the same reasons could end up being the subject of similar rulings.
After the conversation, Suga told reporters he will continue to urge South Korea to “take appropriate action.”
“Japan and South Korea are extremely important neighbors and we must work together as well as with the United States to deal with issues including North Korea,” he added.
According to Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kang Min-seok, Moon noted the different positions the two sides hold, but hoped that Seoul and Tokyo will explore an “optimum” solution acceptable to all parties involved, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported.
The Japanese spokesperson said the pair had also agreed to work to allow businesspeople to travel between the two countries amid COVID-19 restrictions. EFE-EPA