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UNESCO shelves 'comfort women' document registration

Fallout avoided for now, but Tokyo upset over Seoul's push for listing

TOKYO -- UNESCO announced Tuesday that it has postponed a decision to include documents on World War II "comfort women" on its Memory of the World register, tabling an issue likely to ignite tensions between Japan and South Korea.

"Proper actions were taken," Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said of the postponement. A sense of relief was felt in Tokyo after some warned that Japan would stop payments to the U.N.'s cultural organization if documents related to its wartime practices were registered.

The issue, however, still casts its shadow over Tokyo-Seoul relations. Private Chinese and South Korean organizations originally applied to UNESCO to list the documents, but the government in Seoul has since openly supported the move.

"The government expresses our regret over the [International Advisory Committee's] recommendation and the decision by its secretary-general," South Korea's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday. "We will continue possible diplomatic efforts to make the records on comfort women objectively and fairly evaluated going forward."

In a 2015 deal between the South Korean and Japanese governments agreeing to settle the issue "finally and irreversibly," the two sides said that they "will refrain from accusing or criticizing each other regarding this issue in the international community, including at the United Nations."

"The South Korean government's position violates the 2015 agreement," said Japan's Foreign Ministry in response. "We absolutely cannot accept it."


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