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South Korea Will Not Renegotiate Deal with Japan Over Wartime 'Comfort Women'

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Head of the North Korean delegation Ri Son Gwon shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Cho Myoung-gyon during their meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom in the demilitarised zone separating the two Koreas South Korea

South Korea will not seek to renegotiate a deal with Japan on wartime sex slavery, it said Tuesday, despite new President Moon Jae-In saying on the campaign trail he "could not accept" the agreement.

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Japan and South Korea share a bitter history that includes Japan's 1910-45 colonisation but the USA allies are central to efforts to rein in North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

That created an opportunity for Moon to back out of the agreement, but at the risk of upending South Korea's relationship with Japan at a time when the countries are united in confronting North Korea over its weapons programs.

While Seoul does not plan to renegotiate or scrap the deal, Kang encouraged Japan to "accept the truth as it is, according to universally-accepted standards", to help restore the honor and dignity of the victims and heal the wounds in their hearts.

Seoul has also pledged to put aside 8.9 million US dollars to help the victims rather than use the equivalent amount offered by Tokyo in the 2015 deal as a compensation fund - for the money from Tokyo, they plan further discussions on what to do with it. Korea also called on Japan to make efforts of their own accord to help ease the victims' suffering, and give them a honest, voluntary apology.

Kang, however, noted that her country will not demand renegotiation with the Japanese government over the deal as the 2015 agreement was an official deal between governments of the two countries.

Kono said the 2015 settlement was a "final and irreversible resolution". The United States, the biggest ally of South Korea and Japan, had praised the 2015 agreement, saying cooperation between the two major Asian democracies was important for regional stability.

South Korea's Kang did not elaborate on what additional steps South Korea was seeking but a senior foreign ministry official told Reuters it wanted a "voluntary, honest apology rather than money".

Seoul will not ask Tokyo to revise a bilateral pact on settling Japan's wartime sex slavery of Korean women.

The poor conditions, with rain and waves as high as 3m, frustrated efforts to tame the fire and search for the 31 remaining tanker crew members, China's Ministry of Transport said in a statement yesterday. But others rejected it, and some have been protesting regularly in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul.

But under the deal, Japan did not admit legal responsibility for the abuses, drawing anger from some survivors who refused to take the money.

The measures were announced after a government task force, which was launched after President Moon Jae-in took office in May, concluded late past year that the previous government of ousted President Park Geun-hye failed to make sufficient efforts to listen to the surviving former comfort women.

But he has also vowed to "normalise" ties with Japan.

Fresh disagreement on the issue could throw a wrench into Japan-South Korea relations just as concern builds in Tokyo about Seoul's growing preference for dialogue with North Korea.

Japan colonised the Korean peninsula between 1910 and 1945 and occupied parts of China before and after the war. It says that in 2015, it agreed to provide the funds to help them heal "psychological wounds".

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