Japan's Abe returns fire from Korea's Moon on 'comfort women'

A boy (looks at a statue of a teenage girl symbolizing

The South Korean public - educated to view Japanese colonial rule (1910-45) as the darkest area of their history, to the point that comfort women are often conflated with victims of the Nazi holocaust - is distrustful and suspicious of Japan, providing fertile ground for anti-Japanese activism and reporting. The US allies are key to efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said the agreement with Japan was "seriously flawed" and made without proper consultation. He will be the first Japanese prime minister to visit these countries. The two are said to have discussed Tuesday's high-level talks between the two Koreas, the first in two years. But Seoul will not use the 1 billion yen (US$8.9 million) relief fund that Japan paid under the 2015 deal, the government said, declaring that the sex slavery issue remains unresolved.

And in 1993, Tokyo extended "its honest apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women".

"Soul-searching on whether a universal human (rights) issue and a historical issue like the comfort women affair could be settled through negotiations should have made it possible to avoid it", the former journalist with a progressive newspaper said.

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A South Korean panel found fault with the process that led to the December 2015 agreement.

"How would the world be if each new incoming leader gets to change the rules just because he doesn't like what his predecessor has set?"

He said the comfort women issue has been dug up over and over again for "domestic political gain", adding that Seoul chose to gloss over "uncomfortable truth" of historians' findings that South Korean soldiers were culpable of raping Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War.

Abe also expressed hope to promote economic ties with these rapidly growing countries.

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