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Foreign ministry voices regret over Kono's remarks on President Moon

South Korea's foreign ministry expressed regret Friday over the top Japanese diplomat's remarks calling for President Moon Jae-in to "exert his leadership" to address a rancorous row over Tokyo's wartime forced labor.

    In a meeting with reporters on Thursday, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono renewed Tokyo's claim that South Korea breached international law by demanding compensation for the victims of forced labor and said that Moon should "rectify" the situation. 

President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

    Tokyo argues that all reparation issues were settled under a 1965 state-to-state treaty that normalized bilateral ties after Japan's 1910-45 colonization of Korea. But the top court here ruled last year that the victims still have the right as individuals to claim damages.

    "We would like to point out that it is very regrettable that a high-level diplomat of a country demanded some step (by the president) -- and this itself is not in line with international comity and will not be helpful for the stable management of bilateral ties," the ministry said in a statement.

    "We delivered such regrets to the Japanese side through diplomatic channels," it added.

    Kono made the remarks in response to Moon's Liberation Day speech in which the president said he would "gladly join hands"

 with Japan should it choose the path of dialogue and cooperation to end the ongoing diplomatic and trade row.

    Tensions between the two countries rose sharply after Japan's recent export restrictions against South Korea, which are seen as political retaliation for South Korea's top court rulings against Japanese firms over forced labor. (Yonhap)