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Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011
'Comfort women' issue resolved: Noda
'65 treaty cited on eve of first Seoul trip; TPP, Hague on radar
By MASAMI ITO
The war compensation issues regarding South Korea's "comfort women" have already been "legally resolved," Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in an interview Monday on the eve of his trip to Seoul.
The issue of the wartime slaves forced to provide sex for Imperial Japanese soldiers has recently flared up again in South Korea, just before Noda's Wednesday meeting with South Korean President Lee Myung Bak. It will be the prime minister's first official trip to Seoul.
"Japan's position is that the issue of the comfort women was legally resolved in 1965, and that has not changed," Noda said, referring to a bilateral treaty that normalized diplomatic ties between Japan and South Korea. Tokyo has maintained the treaty settled all war compensation issues involving individuals.
"We will not bring this issue up during the upcoming Japan-South Korea summit meeting — it has already been settled," he said during an interview with The Japan Times and several other media outlets.
Before a human rights panel of the United Nations General Assembly last week, South Korea urged the U.N. and its member states to provide "remedies and reparation" to those who were sexually victimized during armed conflicts.
The sex slave issue between Tokyo and Seoul has often sparked emotional outbursts between the peoples of the two countries.
On other matters, Noda reiterated that it would be "difficult" to build a new nuclear plant in Japan but expressed eagerness to continue bilateral talks to export Japan's atomic power technology to other countries, including Vietnam and Jordan.
Noda stressed, however, that he would not be engaging in new talks over the export of nuclear power technology before assessing the triple-meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 atomic plant.
Noda also expressed interest in joining talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade pact, despite strong opposition within the Democratic Party of Japan, which he heads.
He acknowledged there are strong voices opposing the TPP and stressed there is no deadline on the discussions before a conclusion is reached.
Regarding the 1980 Hague Convention on international parental child abductions, Noda said his government is drafting bills to sign the treaty and aims to submit them to the next ordinary Diet session.
Noda also hinted that the government might cancel the construction of a housing complex for government employees in Asaka, Saitama Prefecture, amid criticism the project is a waste of taxpayer money, especially as the country struggles to recover from the calamity.