Abe leaves for Baltic and E.European tour

Abe leaves for Baltic and E.European tour

Under the agreement, Japan apologized and paid 1 billion yen ($8.9 million) to a Korea-run foundation to support the victims in return for Seoul's promise not to raise the issue again in worldwide forums.

"During talks with leaders, I would like to confirm cooperation over urgent challenges facing the global community, including the North Korean crisis, and advance economic relations", Abe told reporters at his office before departing.

Despite a recent cooling of tensions in the run-up to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, Shinzo Abe has insisted on "maximising pressure" on Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile programmes.

The two countries signed the deal on December 28, 2015, to "finally and irreversibly" settle the comfort women issue, which has always been a key source of tension between the two countries.

But it said it would no longer use Japanese money to compensate the survivors.

"This issue can not be resolved through a give-and-take deal between governments struck over the victims' head", he said. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary later played down the report, saying it was not yet decided.

Abe leaves for Baltic and E.European tour

There were 47 South Korean comfort women at the time the deal was struck, but this figure now stands at 33.

He also noted that representatives from more than 30 companies would accompany him to develop business ties. Follow-up measures for victims of Japan's sexual enslavement, which the Korean government called for, are likely to be discussed during the meeting.

Adding that the comfort women issue has been dug up over and over again for "domestic political gain", he cited that historians have found that South Korean soldiers were culpable of raping Vietnamese women during the Vietnam War, as he called this an "uncomfortable truth" that Seoul has glossed over.

He said that although it was a political agreement, it excluded the victims and ordinary South Koreans.

"We hope Japan addresses the concerns of its Asian neighbors and the worldwide community, and properly handles relevant issues with a responsible attitude", Lu said.

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