Japan may not attend a leaders’ meeting with South Korea and China later this year unless “proper measures” are taken in a dispute between Seoul and Tokyo over compensation for wartime forced labour, Japanese media said yesterday.
Ties between the two Asian neighbours soured after South Korea’s Supreme Court ordered a Japanese steelmaker to pay compensation for forced labour in 2018, prompting Tokyo to impose export curbs on some key high-tech materials.
South Korea was set to host the trilateral summit, held roughly once a year, but Kyodo news agency quoted diplomatic sources as saying it would be “impossible” for new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to visit unless Japan’s concerns over the issue are addressed.
It said this view had been conveyed to South Korea. Japan’s Foreign Ministry was not immediately able to comment.
The South Korean Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that Nippon Steel Corp should pay compensation to each of four South Koreans for forced labour during World War II, and a lower court last year approved the seizure of part of the domestic assets of the company. Nippon Steel filed an appeal against the ruling in August.
Japan argues that the ruling violates international law because all claims for compensation rising from Japan’s 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean peninsula were settled under a 1965 treaty.
Mr Suga called for both countries to repair their ties in his first conversation with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But he said later Japan would “continue to firmly seek appropriate action from South Korea”, without elaborating.