Japan to send back envoy recalled over S. Korea statue

Japan said envoy Yasumasa Nagamine needs to be present at a time of political flux in South Korea.
Japan said envoy Yasumasa Nagamine needs to be present at a time of political flux in South Korea.

TOKYO • Japan said it would send its ambassador back to South Korea almost three months after recalling him over a statue commemorating Korean women forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said yesterday that Ambassador Yasumasa Nagamine would return to South Korea today after being recalled in early January.

He said a period of political flux after the arrest of ousted president Park Geun Hye meant an ambassador needed to be in place to gather information on the situation, and for maintaining close ties in the face of North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes.

Japan ordered the envoy home after a statue was placed by activists late last year outside its consulate in Busan. The statue was said to symbolise the plight of comfort women - a euphemism for women forced to work in Japanese military brothels during World War II.

Japan said the statue violated the spirit of a 2015 deal meant to settle the decades-long issue with a Japanese apology and payment of money to survivors.

South Korea's foreign minister said at the time that his government would "strive to solve" the issue of a similar statue that has stood across the street from Japan's Embassy in Seoul since 2011.

That one, which has become a symbol for activists campaigning on behalf of surviving former sex slaves, still stands and Japan saw the new one in the southern port city of Busan as unacceptable.

With the recall of the envoy, Japan also postponed bilateral economic dialogue and talks on a new currency swap with South Korea.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2017, with the headline 'Japan to send back envoy recalled over S. Korea statue'. Print Edition | Subscribe