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International relations

Japan asks Seoul for talks over Nippon Steel asset seizure

Tokyo seeks dialogue based on 1965 treaty

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Wednesday that the seizure of Japanese companies' assets by South Korea is "extremely regrettable."   ¬© Kyodo

TOKYO -- The Japanese government has asked its counterpart in Seoul for talks regarding a ruling by a South Korean court ordering Japan's Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal to compensate for South Koreans who were forced to work for the company during World War II.

On Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga met with relevant ministers and agreed to ask South Korea to hold bilateral talks on the issue as soon as court notification of the asset seizure is delivered to Nippon Steel. Tokyo wants the talks to be based on the 1965 treaty that established diplomatic ties between the two countries.

Seoul's ambassador to Japan was summoned to the foreign ministry later in the day in order for the request to be made.

"The seizure of Japanese companies' assets by South Korea is extremely regrettable, and the Japanese government is taking the situation seriously," Suga said.

The Daegu District Court's Pohang branch approved a request to seize about 81,000 of the Japanese company's shares in a local joint venture with South Korea's leading steelmaker, Posco.

Nippon Steel was ordered by the Supreme Court in October to compensate the South Korean workers and can challenge the new ruling, which the plaintiffs' side said was dated last Thursday.

It is unclear whether the shares will be sold to pay the compensation, or when. But court decision is sure to draw a response from Japan, possibly souring relations further as the countries continue to spar over a December incident in which a South Korean warship allegedly locked its fire-control radar onto a patrol plane belonging to Japan's Maritime Self-Defense Force.

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