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(LEAD) Abe expresses regret over S. Koreans' move to seize Japanese firm's assets over forced labor

All News 11:34 January 06, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout, more info)

TOKYO, Jan. 6 (Yonhap) -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday expressed deep regret over South Korean victims of World War II forced labor taking legal steps to seize the assets of a Japanese firm.

During NHK's "Sunday Debate" program, Abe said he "deeply regrets" the fact that South Korean victims of forced labor are trying to seize a Japanese company's assets to receive compensation.

"The government is taking this issue seriously," he said. "To take actions with fortitude based on international laws, I have ordered related government authorities to review specific measures regarding the case."

His remarks follow media reports that the South Koreans forced into wartime labor are seeking to receive compensation and an apology from the Japanese company.

Last year, South Korea's Supreme Court ruled in favor of the South Korean victims forced into hard labor by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. during Tokyo's 1910-45 colonial rule of the peninsula.

It recognized the victims' individual rights to claim damages, though Japan claims that all reparation-related issues were settled under a government-to-government pact with Seoul in 1965 that normalized bilateral ties.

The lawyers for South Koreans forced into wartime labor recently said they plan to make a request this month for talks with the Japanese firm and demand it respond by the end of next month, according to Japanese newspapers.

The South Korean court made a similar ruling on Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.

"It's all settled and completed with the 1965 pact," Abe said. "Under international law, the (South Korean) court's ruling can't be accepted."

The forced labor issue has been straining the Seoul-Tokyo relationship.

Tensions between the two sides recently flared again after Japan claimed last month that a South Korean destroyer directed fire-control radar at its patrol aircraft in what it calls a "dangerous" act. South Korea rejected the claim, saying the warship was focused on a humanitarian mission to rescue a North Korean ship in distress and that it did not target the plane.

Referring to the spat, Abe simply said the investigation is being handled by the Japanese defense ministry.

This file photo taken Jan. 4, 2019, shows Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. (Yonhap)


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