Japan Summons South Korea Envoy 07/19 06:12
TOKYO (AP) -- Japan's foreign minister on Friday summoned South Korea's
ambassador and accused Seoul of violating international law by refusing to join
in an arbitration panel to settle a dispute over World War II forced labor.
South Korea had until midnight Thursday to respond to Japan's request for a
three-nation panel. The neighboring countries are quarreling over South Korean
court decisions ordering Japanese companies to compensate victims of forced
labor during Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Foreign Minister Taro Kono said after summoning Ambassador Nam Gwan-pyo that
Japan will "take necessary measures" against South Korea if interests of
Japanese companies are harmed, without giving details.
Their talks were held in an icy atmosphere, briefly turning confrontational.
"It is extremely problematic that South Korea is one-sidedly leaving alone
the situation that violates the international law, which is the foundation of
our bilateral relationship," Kono told Nam. "The action being taken by the
South Korean government is something that completely overturns the order of the
international community since the end of the World War II."
Kono urged Seoul to immediately take action to stop the court process, under
which the plaintiffs of the lawsuit are preparing to seize assets of the
Japanese companies, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industry.
Nam defended his government and mentioned Seoul's proposal of creating a
joint fund as a way to settle the dispute. Kono raised his voice, saying Tokyo
had already rejected the idea. He also criticized the ambassador for being
"rude" to suggest it again.
Japan says all compensation issues had been settled under the 1965 bilateral
agreement and that the South Korean government's lack of intervention to stop
the court process is a breach of the international treaty.
Tokyo is considering taking the issue to the International Court of Justice,
although some officials say South Korea is expected to refuse going to court.
Tokyo may seek damages from South Korea in case assets of Japanese companies
are seized, Japanese media have reported.
At the same time, Seoul is protesting Japan's tightened controls on
sensitive high-tech exports to South Korea that could affect South Korean
manufacturers as well as global supplies of smartphones and displays.
The trade dispute adds to their already strained relations.
In Seoul, a 78-year-old South Korean man died hours after setting himself
ablaze near the Japanese Embassy on Friday, police said.
Police said the man had phoned an acquaintance earlier to say he planned to
self-immolate to express his antipathy toward Japan. Kim's family told
investigators that his father-in-law had been conscripted as a forced laborer
during the Japanese occupation.
Seoul has accused Tokyo of weaponizing trade to retaliate against South
Korean court rulings calling for Japanese companies to compensate aging South
Korean plaintiffs for forced labor during World War II, and plans to file a
complaint with the World Trade Organization.
Tokyo said the issue has nothing to do with historical dispute between the
countries and says privileged licensing for the materials affected by the
export controls can be sent only to trustworthy trading partners. Without
presenting specific examples, it has questioned Seoul's credibility in
controlling the exports of arms and items that can be used for civilian and
South Korea has proposed an inquiry by the U.N. Security Council or another
international body on the export controls of both countries.