South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Tuesday announced the government's position on the controversial deal, which was deemed flawed in various aspects by a task force review last month. Some in South Korea have suggested putting it in a trust if Japan does not come to the table. The pact was reached by the administration of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye, predecessor to current President Moon Jae-in. Kono has previously warned that bilateral ties would be damaged if South Korea tries to amend the pact.
A South Korean government panel found last month that victims' opinions were not adequately taken into account when the agreement was drawn up, and Moon called the deal seriously flawed at the end of 2017, saying it did not resolve the issue.
The deal, however, prompted strong criticism from victims and civic groups who claim that Japan's apology was not honest enough and that the government did not consult with them in advance.
"At a time when we are confronting the threat from North Korea, the Japan-South Korean agreement is an indispensable base for Japan-South Korean cooperation in various fields and the creation of a future-oriented relationship", Kono said.
The comfort women issue has been a regular cause for contention between Japan and neighbours China and North and South Korea since the war.
Under the deal, Tokyo agreed to pay $8 million into a fund to support the victims, and offered an apology from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the actions of its troops during Japan's brutal rule of the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945. But she added that there was no denying an official deal had been made and said Seoul wouldn't push to renegotiate it.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief Cabinet secretary, said Tuesday that Tokyo would ask Seoul to carry out the deal under its original terms.
During World War Two, up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea, but also from China, were forcibly used as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers, say historians. But others rejected it, and some have been protesting regularly in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.
Seoul invited a survivor to meet President Trump during his visit to South Korea in November, which Japan criticized as not keeping with the spirit of the 2015 agreement.
"It can not be denied that the 2015 deal was an official agreement reached between the governments of each country, and our government will not demand renegotiation", Kang said in a statement carried by Yonhap News Agency. The meeting between representatives of North and South Korea in the Demilitarized Zone that divides the two countries was the first formal round of talks in more than two years, and helped ease tensions that had been escalating over the North's nuclear and missile tests.
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