New Japan Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi holds firm that Seoul must end wartime labor row
Japan Times -- Sep 19
Newly appointed Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said Wednesday that Tokyo urgently demands Seoul eliminate “violations of international law” regarding wartime Korean labor issues, adding that it is a top priority for Japan in handling the bilateral relationship.

Motegi, formerly the economic and fiscal policy minister, was appointed to his new position during last week’s Cabinet reshuffle and replaced Taro Kono, who is now defense minister.

Diplomatic observers had speculated as to whether the appointment of a new foreign minister would signal a policy shift by Tokyo, but Motegi so far has shown no signs of compromise as far as the wartime labor issue is concerned.

“What we need to seek now is a correction to the situations that violate international law,” Motegi said during a joint interview with multiple media outlets including The Japan Times. He refrained from answering when asked if he would take a “hard or soft” policy stance against South Korea.

“We haven’t shut down diplomatic channels for dialogue” but the wartime labor issue is a key priority for Tokyo, Motegi said.

He argued that “the foundation of the Japan-South Korean relationship has been overturned” due to the wartime labor issue and that Seoul must correct it “as soon as possible,” reiterating the official policy stance of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Cabinet.

Last year, South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered Japanese firms to pay damages to Koreans who they forced to work during World War II.

The two countries are said to have agreed in 1965 that they would settle all compensation issues involving Japan’s colonial rule, including those involving wartime labor issues, by concluding an economic cooperation pact. The agreement was attached to the basic treaty that normalized the postwar relationship between the two countries, after lengthy negotiations.

News source: Japan Times
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