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(2nd LD) Cheong Wa Dae says Japan violating int'l law, ponders 'all options' including military pact

Diplomacy 17:41 July 19, 2019

(ATTN: MODIFIES headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with more remarks, Cheong Wa Dae's unofficial translation; CHANGES photo)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, July 19 (Yonhap) -- The office of President Moon Jae-in accused Japan on Friday of breaching international law with unilateral export restrictions against South Korea, saying it is considering "all options," including a review of a bilateral military information-sharing pact.

Kim Hyun-chong, deputy chief of Cheong Wa Dae's national security office, was countering a statement by Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono that Seoul is not abiding by a 1965 bilateral treaty in violation of international law.

Japan's claim is "simply wrong," Kim told reporters.

"It was Japan that initially violated international law by an illegal act against humanity in the form of forced labor," he said.

He stressed that South Korea's Supreme Court had ruled that the treaty does not cover compensation for Japan's "inhumane crime and infringement on human rights" against Korean victims of its wartime forced labor.

Kim, who serves as deputy national security adviser, said the government can't ignore or discard the court decision in a democratic country with the constitutional division of powers.

South Korea's deputy national security adviser, Kim Hyun-chong, issues a statement on Japan at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on July 19, 2019. (Yonhap)

He said Japan has taken the retaliatory trade measure while diplomatic efforts to resolve the problem "have not yet run out."

He said Seoul is still willing to resolve the historical dispute and Japan's export curbs via diplomacy, adding "all options" are on the table.

"Our government remains open to any constructive proposal, in recognition of the importance of achieving a diplomatic solution to the issue of forced labor," he said.

South Korea hopes for discussions with Japan on "reasonable solutions" that can be accepted by victims and people of neighboring countries, he said.

"In this light, we urge Japan to withdraw unjustified export restriction measures and refrain from comments and measures that could further exacerbate the situation," Kim added.

A Cheong Wa Dae official later indicated that the fate of the General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) is among the options. He said Cheong Wa Dae will "objectively scrutinize" the issue of the GSOMIA, signed in 2016 and extended automatically each year.

"We'll be taking an objective look at the GSOMIA qualitatively and quantitatively in terms of the information that we (have) exchanged," the official said in English. "We will scrutinize GSOMIA objectively and see qualitatively how helpful that is to us."

Asked about Seoul's offer of creating a joint fund of South Korean and Japanese companies to implement the court's order, the official said Tokyo can put forward an appropriate counter-proposal in diplomatic consultations if it's against that.

"(We) have a flexible position," he said, adding South Korea wants to see if Japan has its own suggestion for a realistic diplomatic resolution.

He cited the need to figure out what Japan dislikes about the so-called one-plus-one fund offer and how to modify it for a deal, if necessary.

Earlier this month, Japan put tougher restrictions on the export of core chipmaking materials to South Korea in protest at the court rulings.

The Abe administration asserts that all reparation issues related to the 1910-45 colonization of Korea were settled in the 1965 accord.

The Seoul court, however, ruled that the individual rights to compensation for wartime forced labor, which is an inhumane crime, hold true. It ordered Japanese firms to pay compensation.

The Cheong Wa Dae official said he does not expect Japan to retract the export curbs soon after its parliamentary elections this weekend.

Meanwhile, the official's remark on the GSOMIA has caused confusion, as another Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters hours earlier that the future of the military agreement is "not connected" with Japan's economic reprisal.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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