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After years of judicial wrangling and political intrigue, Seoul"s court on Tuesday approved the seizure of local assets of a Japanese company after it refused to compensate several wartime forced labors.
The next day, Tokyo summoned the Republic of Korea"s ambassador and requested for talks based on a 1965 bilateral agreement. Seoul, however, said no decision been made yet over Tokyo"s request.
The ruling came as the latest bump between the two countries among other recent disputes known as ROK warship directed its fire-control radar at a Japanese surveillance aircraft and Seoul decided to disband "comfort women" foundation sponsored by Japan. Analysts think given the obvious differences on many issues, a reconciliation could not be expected in recent times and the already fractious ties between Tokyo and Seoul is set to "chill further".
In October, ROK"s top court ruled that Japanese steel-maker Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp compensate four Koreans for their forced labor during World War II. A local court of Seoul further granted to freeze part of NSSMC"s assets on Tuesday after it refused to make reparation payments.
The decision sparked a rebuke from Tokyo, which Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono said "extremely regrettable and totally unacceptable", urging ROK government to overrule the court"s decision and insisting that a 1965 bilateral agreement had already had property claims and compensation issues resolved.
In response, ROK President Moon Jae-in called on Japan to be humble to the wartime past and stop "politicizing" the issue.
"I think the Japanese government should take a more humbled attitude ... It is not wise for Japanese politicians and leader to continue to politicize it, making sources of controversy and spreading them," Moon said on Thursday.
Yu Qiang, a researcher of Japan studies at University of International Relations in Beijing said Seoul"s stance that "the 1965 agreement did not cut individual"s right to sue for damages" will have far-reaching effect as about 70 similar cases involving Japanese companies are still pending.
"For example, freezing of assets of Mitsubishi could also be expected if no compensation agreements were reached," Yu added.
In November, following a similar judgment, Seoul"s supreme court ordered Japan"s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries to compensate 10 forced labor victims for $130,000 each.
Three weeks had past and no signs of resolving radar lock conflict between Japan and ROK.
In December, Japan accused a ROK navy destroyer of targeting its fire-control radar, a move before attacking an enemy, toward a Japanese surveillance aircraft, by giving out a video footage from the patrol plane.
Japan Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya then conveyed Tokyo"s strong protest and warned ROK of "extreme danger" and urged Seoul to prevent "recurrence" of such actions.
ROK, for its part, claimed the Japanese plane"s low-altitude flight threatened Seoul"s humanitarian rescue mission and demanded an apology from Japan. It had released two videos to counter Tokyo"s claims and more will come, according to ROK"s defense ministry.
Liu Qingbin, professor at the Institute of Advanced Sciences of Yokohama National University, said "the tit-for-tat" exchanges between Tokyo and Seoul is "further deteriorating the already fractious relations".
"I think it is going to a dead-end," Liu said.
Echoing Liu, Hirotake Ran, an East Asia studies professor at Musashino University in Tokyo, said "both Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and ROK President Moon Jae-in tend to appear as hardliners when it comes to national sentiments and that makes solving the problem even harder."
Analysts said the recent tensions merely reflect a more independent ROK flexing its political muscle.
Hiroshi Onishi, an economics professor at Keio University in Tokyo and vice chairman of World Association for Political Economy, said ROK is no longer satisfied with past agreements and Abe administration is not fully prepared for that change.
"As the situation on the Korean Peninsula starts to reconcile, Seoul can now speak up for things it used to accept reluctantly because it faced extensive pressure from the north before," Onishi said, "but Abe administration failed to follow up with the change of the situation and is not fully prepared for Seoul"s uprising."
"With the turbulences between Japan and ROK, and the increasing distrust against each other, it is difficult for the two countries to improve relations imminently," Onishi added.custom watch braceletcustom engraved bracelets for himcheapest place to buy silicone wristbandscool silicone wristbandscheap rubber bracelets personalized no minimum