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Japan recalls Korean envoy over 'comfort women' statue

Japan recalls Korean envoy over 'comfort women' statue

Japan temporarily recalled its ambassador to South Korea on Friday after a row over a statue meant to symbolize the hundreds of thousands of women who were forced to into sex work by the Japanese army during World War 2.

Speaking at a news conference Friday, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Yoshihide Suga, announced that the country is withdrawing both its ambassador to South Korea and the consul general at Busan.

Japan agreed to pay 1 billion yen ($8.62 million) to a foundation that Seoul helped to establish for assistance to the former comfort women who were forced to provide sex to Japanese troops before and during World War II. The women were repeatedly raped and often subjected to sexually transmitted diseases. Since the agreement was announced a year ago, activists have maintained a 24-hour vigil to ensure the statue is not removed.

Japan withdrew its ambassador to South Korea Friday over a statue symbolizing "Comfort women" was placed outside the Japanese embassy in Busan.

Japan says the statue violates a previous agreement on the issue.

The Associated Press reported that another statue by the same artist has has stood in front of Japan's embassy in Seoul since 2011, prior to the agreement.

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The statue depicts a young, barefoot woman sitting in a chair.

Mr Suga said Japan would postpone bilateral "high-level " economic dialogue and that it was suspending talks on a new currency swap arrangement with South Korea.

The South Korean government has so far not intervened with regard to whether it should be removed and instead is leaving the decision to local authorities. No date has been set for Nagamine to return to South Korea. "The Japanese government finds this situation extremely regrettable", he said.

A statue from Korea commemorating the country's so-called "comfort women" at a Sydney church in Australia, December 15, 2016.

"This does not mean we are temporarily cutting off diplomatic ties", said an official at Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said in a statement Friday that South Korea and Japan should both carry out their agreement of 2015.


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