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Japanese ambassador to Korea still absent from Seoul after a month Updated: 2017-02-10 18:49:38 KST

In protest against a second "comfort woman" statue installed in Korea's southern port city of Busan in addition to the one located in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul, the Japanese government recalled its ambassador to Korea, Yasumasa Nagamine, and its consul general in Busan, Yasuhiro Morimoto, in early January.
Tokyo has also halted negotiations over renewing a currency swap deal with Seoul and has delayed high-level economic talks.

"One month has passed and the envoys still haven't returned. It's the longest absence so far, as the record for previous envoys was 14 days. And according to the Japanese authorities on Thursday, nothing has been decided regarding the envoys' return."

Experts say it's urgent that the two sides get their bilateral diplomatic channels back open because the current situation benefits neither one of them.

"The two countries have a wide range of issues to coordinate on, including nuclear and missile threats from North Korea and the new administration in the U.S. The situation in East Asia is in flux and unstable so Korea-Japan relations shouldn't be left as they are now."

What's important, and fundamental, they say, is a shared understanding of the agreement reached in late 2015 on Japan's past wartime sexual slavery: both sides should keep in mind the agreement's initial objective and underlying sentiment.

"It may seem as if by having another comfort woman statue in Busan, Korea provided a reason for Tokyo to do this, but that is not the core issue. In the agreement, Japan promised to take the 'comfort women' issue to heart and sincerely apologize. Its attitude of putting up the 10 billion yen as a sort of exchange for getting the statue removed is not appropriate."

Korea's foreign ministry has announced that a bilateral foreign ministers' meeting alongside the G20 summit next week is under review.
So it remains to be seen whether or not the top diplomats will touch upon the ongoing tension surrounding the "comfort women" statue and the agreement.
Oh Jung-hee, Arirang News.
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