Japan spurns request by S. Korea to hold talks on wartime labor dispute
TOKYO, June 19 (Xinhua) -- Japan on Wednesday spurned a request by South Korea to hold talks on a wartime labor dispute, having earlier in the day asked Seoul to establish a panel selected entirely by other countries to expedite the dispute's arbitration process.
The move by Tokyo was made under the terms of a 1965 bilateral accord between the two countries, that Tokyo invoked as Seoul had seemingly disregarded a deadline to name a member to an arbitration panel along with Japan and a third country.
South Korea, for its part, made a counter offer on Wednesday to hold talks with Japan, with the proviso being that the companies of the two countries contribute to funds to compensate the victims of forced wartime labor.
Japan, however, rejected South Korea's offer, with Foreign Minister Taro Kono in a Twitter post alluding to Seoul being in violation of international law.
Kono has maintained that if South Korea continues to ignore calls for it to establish an arbitration panel and continues to permit lawyers to seize and liquidate the assets of Japanese firms, Japan might take the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
As bilateral relations between Tokyo and Seoul continue to fray, the current standoff between the two countries has led to Japanese officials saying that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe no longer plans to hold talks with South Korean President Moon Jae In on the sidelines of G20 summit in Osaka next week.
South Korea's top court ordered Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. to pay compensation for the forced labor of the plaintiffs during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
A similar judgement was issued by the top court in South Korea for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. to compensate two groups of South Koreans over wartime forced labor.
Other Japanese companies including, but not limited to Nachi-Fujikoshi Corp. and Mitsubishi Materials Corp., have also been sued by South Korean plaintiffs claiming they or their family members were adversely affected by Japanese firms' forced wartime labor.
Japan, for its part, has claimed the rulings are not in line with international law and run contrary to the foundation of friendly and cooperative relations between the two neighbors since the 1965 normalization of diplomatic ties.
Japan maintains the matter of compensation for wartime labor was "finally and completely" resolved under the pact.
The foreign ministry here has claimed that Seoul has been reluctant to show willingness to advance talks on the matter with Tokyo through diplomatic channels and, hence, is seeking outside arbitration on the issue.
One Japanese advocate supporting the South Korean plaintiffs said, however, that the forced labor during the war by the Japanese companies in question had destroyed the lives of the laborers and as such the companies should admit their culpability and and apologize.