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Japan weighs sanctions against South Korea as rift over wartime use of forced labour deepens

The Japanese government is weighing sanctions against South Korea after the row over wartime forced labour escalated, further reopening old wounds stemming from the period of Tokyo’s colonial rule. Sources have told the South China Morning Post that Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is absolutely indignant and a meeting of members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party became extremely heated. A source said “Many of the politicians there were very angry and there were calls for the Japanese ambassador to Seoul to be recalled. It was mentioned that the government is already considering sanctions against South Korea, although it has stopped short of announcing that they are being planned.”

Such sanctions might include the reintroduction of visas for South Korean travellers, restrictions imposed on diplomats and the seizure of South Korean government assets in Japan that would be used to compensate any Japanese firms for assets used in South Korea to compensate forced labourers.

Lawyers representing South Koreans forced to work for Japan’s Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal told a press conference in Tokyo on Tuesday they have set the company a deadline of 5pm on December 24 to respond to their request to discuss compensation. If the company does not respond to the ultimatum, they said, the lawyers will apply to courts in South Korea to freeze part of its assets there. Nippon Steel holds about 2.34 million shares in PNR, a joint venture with South Korean steelmaker Posco.
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