Japan refused Wednesday a proposal by South Korea to settle a wartime labor dispute through diplomatic channels, stating the time for talks had already passed and it is now trying to proceed with an arbitration process concerning other countries.
Bilateral links have been frayed following South Korean court choices last year ordering Japanese firms to pay damages to victims of forced labor during Tokyo’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
South Korea said Wednesday it is prepared to hold discussions with Japan on the condition that companies of the 2 countries chip in funds to compensate the victims.
Japan argues that the issue of compensation was settled by a 1965 bilateral accord under which it provided $500 million in financial aid to the South Korean government and an additional $300 million in private credits.
If South Korea goes on to reject the request to establish an arbitration panel and permit lawyers to seize and liquidate the Japanese companies’ assets, Kono has said he would consider taking the dispute to the International Court of Justice.
The highly charged exchange came a day after a deadline for South Korea to name a member of the panel along with Japan and a third country came and went.
Underscoring the frosty relations, Japanese officers say Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offers to forgo holding discussions with South Korean President Moon Jae In on the sidelines of a Group of 20 summit next week in Osaka.
Kono and his South Korean counterpart Kang Kyung Wha is deciding to meet on the fringes of the June 28-29 G-20 summit to talk about the issue, based on the officials.
In January, Japan asked to decide the problem through diplomatic channels. But South Korea did not oblige, keeping that the issue should be left to its judicial system.
In a bid to break the impasse, Japan offered on May 20 that the countries set up an arbitration panel containing one member each chosen by the two countries and a third nation.
South Korean officials had said they would “carefully review” the proposal but did not present a panel member by the deadline on midnight Tuesday.
On Wednesday, Japan pressed South Korea to go to the next step, in which each side has an extra 30 days to ask another country to pick a panel member. Those two countries would also choose a third country to create the final panel member.
Kenji Kanasugi, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, did the request to a senior official at the South Korean Embassy in Tokyo, expressing regret over Seoul’s failure to meet the deadline.
The South Korean official said he would send the request to the country, as per the Japanese ministry.
Often marred by vary type of views of wartime history and a territorial row, bilateral ties have become particularly fraught in recent months due to the wartime labor issue along with an incident where a South Korean destroyer allegedly locked its fire-control radar onto a Japanese patrol plane in Japan’s exclusive economic zone .