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Japan withdraws envoy in row over 'comfort women' statue

Japan withdraws envoy in row over 'comfort women' statue

Earlier in the day, the Tokyo government said that it has broken off the negotiations with South Korea to reopen the currency swap deal, citing Seoul's recent move to let the statue symbolizing the victims of Japan's wartime sexual slavery be built in front of its consulate building in the southern port city of Busan.

Japan agreed to pay 1 billion yen ($8.62 million) to a foundation that Seoul helped to establish for assistance to the former comfort women who were forced to provide sex to Japanese troops before and during World War II.

Japan and South Korea reached an agreement to resolve their differences over the issue in late 2015, but some South Koreans have continued to protest.

However, critics said the agreement had failed to hold Japan responsible for wartime abuses.

It has become a symbol of the injustice faced by the Korean comfort women and the perceived lack of adequate apology and compensation from Japan. But anti-Japan sentiment resurged in South Korea, fueled by Defense Minister Tomomi Inada's December 29 visit to Yasukuni Shrine, where Class-A war criminals are honored along with Japan's war dead.




The statue in Busan is thought to be not the only one in South Korea.

Busan police originally removed the 5ft-tall bronze statue, which depicts a sitting, barefoot woman.

It also suspended a currency swap and postponed high-level economic discussions. The most prominent one is located across the road from the Japanese Embassy in Seoul - placed there in 2011.

Japan says the statue violates a previous agreement on the issue. "The Japanese government will continue to strongly urge the South Korean government as well as municipalities concerned to quickly remove the statue of the girl". "It is important that both the Japanese and South Korean governments take responsibility and carry out the deal", Abe said, adding that "backpedaling is not constructive".

In August previous year, the Japanese government said it will be compensating surviving comfort women, making them eligible to receive 100 million won (about $90,000) each.

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