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Japan 'fully resolved' issue of wartime sex slaves: Tokyo official
TOKYO, Oct. 3 (Yonhap) -- The Japanese government believes it has fully resolved the issue of compensation for Korean women forced into sexual slavery for Japan's World War II soldiers, a Tokyo official said, casting doubts over the possibility of further talks proposed by Seoul.

   The remarks by Shinsuke Sugiyama, director-general of the Japanese foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, came in response to South Korea's Sept. 15 proposal for bilateral talks on the issue. The request followed a ruling in August by South Korea's Constitutional Court that it is unconstitutional for the Seoul government to make no specific effort to settle the matter with Tokyo.

Shinsuke Sugiyama, director-general of the Japanese foreign ministry's Asian and Oceanian affairs bureau, speaks to South Korean reporters during an interview at the ministry in Tokyo on Sept. 30. (Yonhap)

"The Japanese government's consistent position is this: The issue of compensation for the 'comfort women' was fully and completely resolved" under a bilateral normalization treaty signed in 1965, Sugiyama said Friday in an interview at the ministry with a group of visiting South Korean journalists.

   He added that the Tokyo government plans to "respond appropriately" to South Korea's proposal, but declined to elaborate.

   "South Korea and Japan are in a relationship that shares vital interests. (We) should pursue such relations in many areas and act in a future-oriented way," Sugiyama said. "The Japanese government should look squarely at the past and continuously seek a direction in which to develop the future."

   The issue of the former sex slaves, euphemistically called "comfort women," remains one of the most emotional issues between South Korea and Japan.

   Japan, which ruled the Korean Peninsula as a colony from 1910 to 1945, has acknowledged that its wartime military used sex slaves. However, it refuses to compensate the victims individually, saying the issue was settled by the 1965 treaty.

   Some South Korean officials argue that Japan's wartime sexual slavery was a crime against humanity, and thus not covered by the treaty. The issue is becoming an increasingly urgent priority as most victims are elderly and fear they may die before receiving direct compensation or an apology from Japan.

   According to historians, up to 200,000 women, mostly Koreans, were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during World War II.