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Japan seeks talks with ROK on asset seizures

Jiji Press TOKYO (Jiji Press) — Japan asked South Korea on Wednesday to hold bilateral talks on the issue of asset seizures related to wartime labor, under a 1965 bilateral agreement on claims and property.

The request was made after a South Korean district court was revealed Tuesday to have approved the seizure of assets in South Korea of Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. over wartime labor.

The seizure was sought by South Korean plaintiffs in a damages lawsuit against the company, which refuses to pay compensation related to the issue.

It was the first time for the Japanese government to request bilateral talks under the 1965 agreement.

It is uncertain whether South Korea will agree to hold bilateral talks, however, and Japan-South Korea relations may deteriorate further.

The 1965 agreement stipulates that disputes between the two countries should be resolved through diplomatic channels. If the South Korean government refuses to discuss the issue bilaterally, the Japanese government plans to call for setting up an arbitration panel including third-country members under the agreement.

If the panel cannot resolve the dispute, Japan may consider taking the issue to the International Court of Justice.

The Japanese government believes that any court order seeking compensation from Nippon Steel over wartime labor is unacceptable as the claim issue was fully and finally resolved under the agreement concluded by Japan and South Korea in 1965, when they normalized their diplomatic relations. The Korean Peninsula was under Japan’s colonial rule from 1910 through the end of World War II in 1945.

At a press conference earlier on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga again criticized a ruling from the South Korean Supreme Court in October last year that ordered Nippon Steel to pay compensation, saying that the ruling was a violation of international law.

“Since the ruling, the Japanese government has been calling on the South Korean government to take appropriate measures, but concrete responses have yet to be taken,” Suga said.

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