Phone talks held on Sunday between Japan, S.Korea foreign ministers

An official at the Japanese Foreign Ministry has revealed that the foreign ministers of Japan and South Korea held telephone talks on Sunday, ahead of Seoul's announcement on Monday of its plan to settle the wartime labor compensation issue.

The official told reporters in Tokyo on Monday that Hayashi Yoshimasa and his South Korean counterpart Park Jin finalized their confirmation of the plan.

The official explained that Hayashi evaluated past dialogues between diplomatic authorities on both sides, and that their final confirmation led to South Korea's announcement of the plan on Monday, followed by Japan's response.

The official noted the two governments started communicating seriously on the issue around last July, when Foreign Minister Park visited Japan.

The official said the talks required time due to political, legal and technical problems in South Korea. But the official emphasized that the Japanese side highly appreciates the solution plan as a broad direction aimed at returning soured bilateral ties to a healthy state.

The official also said the proposal has removed Japanese firms' liabilities under South Korea's legal system and does not contradict Japan's stance that the issue was already resolved by the bilateral agreement in 1965.

The plan is to have a South Korean government-affiliated foundation pay damages in place of Japanese firms to those who say they or their family members were forced to work for the firms during World War Two.

Asked whether there is any possibility that the foundation will demand reimbursement from Japanese firms after it finishes paying damages, the official said that, in light of the purpose of the proposal, the ministry understands that will not happen.