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International relations

Japan wary of possible fallout from South Korean election

TOKYO -- Some in the Japanese government are concerned that the electoral rout suffered by South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party could affect an emerging thaw in bilateral relations, possibly derailing a hard-won agreement to settle the wartime "comfort women" issue.

     The two countries reached an accord in December to "finally and irreversibly" settle the comfort women issue. The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, which won the National Assembly elections Wednesday, pledged to renegotiate the deal in its campaign.

     "Japan and South Korea must both take responsibility and carry out the agreement," Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Thursday.

     The South Korean government's basic position has not changed, a spokesperson for the country's foreign ministry said that day.

     But no progress has been made over specific terms of the agreement, such as creating a foundation to support former comfort women or the removal of a statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul. Japanese government officials were hoping for progress after the election, but they likely will need to reassess the situation given South Korean President Park Geun-hye's waning influence.

     The move for greater security cooperation, fueled by North Korea's nuclear tests and rocket launches, could lose steam as well. Japan, South Korea and the U.S. had just reaffirmed their commitment to a stronger security partnership at a trilateral summit March 31. Japan is pushing to sign a General Security of Military Information Agreement with South Korea, which would let them better share intelligence on Pyongyang, but it's hard to tell how that will play out.

(Nikkei)

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