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Foreign ministry urges prudence over civic group's 'comfort women' statue installation

All Headlines 17:42 January 03, 2017

SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Yonhap) -- The foreign ministry urged prudence Tuesday over the recent move by a civic group to set up a statue of a girl symbolizing Japan's wartime sexual atrocities, effectively expressing opposition to the action that could rekindle a row with Tokyo.

On Friday, civic activists erected the life-size statue close to the Japanese Consulate in Busan, a southern port city, in protest of a Seoul-Tokyo deal signed in December 2015 to settle long-running diplomatic rows over the imperialist Japanese army's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.

Under the accord, Japan paid 1 billion yen (US$8.5 million) to help South Korean victims and requested South Korea remove a similar statue installed in front of the Japanese Embassy in central Seoul. But the deal drew relentless opposition from the public and some of the surviving victims who complained they were not consulted in advance. Critics added Tokyo has also not offered official recognition of the atrocities committed.

"The stance of (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) is that there's a need for prudent judgment particularly in terms of international comity and custom involving the protection of diplomatic missions," ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said in a press briefing.

The Busan statue installation became a recent thorn in bilateral relations, with Japan lodging a protest with South Korean Ambassador to Japan Lee Joon-gyu right after the installation. Japan demanded the statue be removed.

Separately referring to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump's online comment on North Korea's nuclear program, Cho said it is Trump's clear warning against Pyongyang.

On his Twitter account Trump said earlier in the day that "North Korea just stated that it is in the final stages of developing a nuclear weapon capable of reaching parts of the U.S. It won't happen!"

The statement was referring to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's New Year message that the country is in the final stages of preparing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test.

"It was his first express mention of the North Korean nuclear issue since his presidential election," the spokesman said. "It can be interpreted as a clear warning over Kim Jung-un's hinting of provocations like an ICBM (test) in his New Year address."

pbr@yna.co.kr
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