TOKYO: Japanese Prime Minister SUGA Yoshihide said Friday that his government cannot accept an order by a South Korean district court to pay compensation to so-called wartime comfort women.
“We can never accept such an order,” Suga told reporters.
Referring to the principle of sovereign immunity guaranteed by international law, Suga said that “a sovereign state should not be put under the jurisdiction of foreign courts,” claiming that the lawsuit should be rejected.
Suga stressed that the issue of Korean women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese troops at army brothels during World War II was settled “finally and irreversibly under a 1965 bilateral agreement on property and claims.”
While urging the South Korean government to correct violations of international law, Suga indicated intention of watching Seoul’s response. “First of all, the lawsuit needs to be dismissed,” he said.
At a press conference on the day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato denounced the ruling as “extremely regrettable and absolutely unacceptable.”
But he said Tokyo will not file an appeal because it recognizes the lawsuit itself as invalid.
He also expressed reluctance to take countermeasures, such as recalling the Japanese ambassador to South Korea.
In a related development the same day, Vice Foreign Minister Takeo Akiba called South Korean Ambassador to Japan Nam Gwan-pyo to the Foreign Ministry to protest the ruling.
Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, now on trip to South Africa and other African countries, is considering telephone talks with his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, on the matter, people familiar with the matter said.
Another ruling is set to be handed down on Wednesday in South Korea in a separate comfort women lawsuit seeking the Japanese government’s damages payment.
“There’s no way a similar ruling will be made again,” said a senior minister official.
“If that happens, we will seek corrective actions without making a fuss,” the official added.