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Japan PM urges removal of statue

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TOKYO Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called on South Korea to remove a statue of a "comfort woman" that re-ignited a diplomatic row over Tokyo's wartime sex slavery.

Tensions spiked last Friday when Tokyo recalled its ambassador over the statue - placed outside its consulate in Busan last month - that symbolises women forced to work in Japanese military brothels mostly during World War II.

Japan argued it is against a 2015 agreement that was meant to put an end to the hugely emotional and decades-long "comfort women" issue with a Japanese apology and payment of money.


"Japan has already paid 1 billion yen (S$12 million) as we sincerely fulfilled our obligation. I think it is now South Korea's turn to show sincerity in an unwavering manner," Mr Abe said in a programme aired yesterday on public broadcaster NHK.

The plight of the women has marred relations for decades, but the governments of Mr Abe and South Korean President Park Geun Hye reached an agreement in late 2015 to finally resolve it.

Under that accord, which both countries described as "final and irreversible," Japan offered an apology and the payment to surviving Korean comfort women.

South Korea is expected to have a new administration following the impeachment of Ms Park but Mr Abe demanded the accord be honoured.

"It is a matter of national credibility to implement (the agreement) even if the government changes," he said.

The statue in Busan was initially removed by local authorities after activists placed it in front of the Japanese consulate.

But after the Japanese defence minister paid homage at Yasukuni Shrine last month - a spot where senior convicted war criminals are honoured - Seoul allowed the activists to put the statue back up. - AFP

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