TOKYO/SEOUL - Japan on Monday said it was untrue that the government apologized to the Republic of Korea after it lodged a protest with Tokyo over its alleged distortion of facts pertaining to Seoul's decision to maintain a bilateral intelligence-sharing pact.
Japan's top government spokesperson, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, in response to remarks purportedly made over the weekend by the ROK, stating that it had lodged a protest over Japan's distortion of facts and had received an apology, shrugged off the latest wrangle.
"It's unproductive to comment on what the South Korean side says each time. At any rate, it's not true that the government apologized," Suga told a press briefing on the matter.
The ROK is also referred to as South Korea.
The latest development came as the ROK's Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said on Monday that it was important for Tokyo and Seoul to hold sincere discussions in a bid to settle issues that both sides remain at odds over.
It is necessary to hold sincere discussions to seek full-fledged resolutions over outstanding issues between the state.
Lee Nak-yon, ROK prime minister
"It is necessary to hold sincere discussions to seek full-fledged resolutions over outstanding issues between the states," Lee told political and business leaders from Japan and ROK in a message delivered at a meeting in Tokyo.
Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, who serves as the chairman of Japan's committee, said that it was important for promises to be kept and for both sides to be mindful of ties being handed over to future generations.
"Relations between Japan and South Korea are in the most severe situation. But we have to hand over ties our predecessors have established to the next generation," said Aso, who also serves as Japan's finance minister.
The remarks by Lee and Aso come a day after Japan and ROK took fresh swipes at one another, raising questions about whether relations between the US allies would improve after they reached a last-minute deal on Friday to rescue an expiring intelligence-sharing pact.
Japan on late Sunday rejected a complaint by ROK over the wording of an announcement that the two sides would hold talks on a dispute over export controls
Yonhap news agency reported on Monday that Japan had offered to discuss retracting export curbs against the ROK in return for delayed expiry of a military intelligence-sharing pact between the two countries.
Citing multiple unnamed government sources of the ROK, Yonhap reported that Japan proposed to hold a director general-level meeting with South Korea to discuss retracting export curbs, including putting South Korea on Japan's whitelist again.
Japan late Sunday rejected a ROK complaint over the wording of an announcement that the two sides would hold talks on a dispute over export controls. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said on Twitter that the announcement was in line with prior discussions with ROK, after Seoul accused Tokyo of intentionally leaking and distorting information about the agreement.
ROK on Friday suspended its plans to pull out of their intelligence-sharing pact known as the General Security of Military Information Agreement and said it would temporarily withdraw a complaint it made against Japan at the World Trade Organization. The developments marked a rare reversal in tensions that have plunged to new depths in recent years and spilled over to hurt trade and tourism.
The foreign ministers of the two countries agreed in a meeting in Nagoya on Saturday to work toward a summit between Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and ROK President Moon Jae-in on the sidelines of a trilateral meeting with China next month.
But on Sunday, ROK's presidential office expressed deep regret over the Japanese government’s handling of the joint announcement on GSOMIA. It accused Tokyo of not abiding by agreed timing for their joint statements and objected to some of its characterization of ROK’s positions.
The pact was set to formally cease to exist at 12 am on Saturday, three months after ROK moved to end the deal amid a history-laden dispute with Japan. The three-year-old pact was seen as important because it demonstrated the neighbors’ ability to cooperate independently from Washington to counter shared threats including the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
The decision to save GSOMIA — which had been a key focus of US Defense Secretary Mark Esper during a trip to Asia over the past week — was quickly applauded by the Pentagon.
The Pentagon had warned that allowing the pact to end would “increase risk” to some 80,000 US troops stationed in the two countries. Since May, the DPRK has test-fired a series of new ballistic missiles that weapons experts said can deliver a nuclear warhead to all of ROK and most of Japan.
HONG KONG NEWS