Japan's ambassador to Korea, Yasumasa Nagamine, and its consul general in Busan, Yasuhiro Morimoto, left Korea on Monday for Japan amid rising tensions over a "comfort woman" statue in the southern port city.
"We find the installation of the statue in front of the Japanese Consulate in Busan very regrettable. The Japanese government announced its measures on the situation on January 6th, one of which is for me and the consul general to return to Japan temporarily on Monday. We will be discussing the matter with authorities."
The statue commemorates the Korean women and girls who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military before and during World War Two.
Japan asked Korea to remove it, but the Korean government said it cannot because it was installed by a civic group.
However, the civic group and a number of victims are calling for re-negotiation as the current agreement does not include a sincere apology from the Japanese government or appropriate individual compensation. ***
On Sunday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in a televised interview that Japan had done its part to fulfill a landmark agreement with Korea on the wartime sex slavery issue and now Korea needs to do its part.
One foreign relations expert said Abe's expression of discontent was directed not only at the Korean government, but also to his conservative supporters in Japan.
"Many conservative Japanese people protested the landmark agreement between the two countries at first, as they saw it as an admission of wrongdoing. But because Prime Minister Abe signed the deal, their opposition died out. After an additional statue was installed (in Busan), instead of the one in Seoul being removed, Abe had to show his supporters that he, too, was furious with Korea."
Seoul and Tokyo struck the landmark agreement in late 2015, but since then, Tokyo's sincerity has been called into question, most recently when a number of Japanese lawmakers paid a visit to a controversial war shine that honors several class-A war criminals.
Lee Ji-won, Arirang News.