Japan to propose govt-backed fund for S Korean 'comfort women'

TOKYO - Japan will propose next week setting up a government-backed fund to help former South Korean"comfort women", aiming to resolve an issue that has often strained ties between the East Asian neighbours, the Nikkei business daily reported on Friday.

Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida will visit South Korea on Monday to discuss with his counterpart Yun Byung-se the issue of Korean girls and women who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels, the Nikkei and other media have reported.

Government spokesmen were unable to confirm the reports of the foreign ministers' meeting.

The Nikkei, citing a government source, said one proposal"would have 10 years' worth of aid paid out at once to create an aid fund". The fund would contain more than 100 million yen (S$1.1 million), it said.

Tokyo wants assurances that any resolution to the feud over"comfort women" that might be reached will be final, Japanese government sources have said.

Japan says the issue of compensation for the women was legally settled by a 1965 treaty and that it stands by a 1993 government apology. South Korea has said this was not enough.

South Korea's ties with Japan have long been strained by what Seoul sees as Japanese leaders' reluctance to atone for the country's brutal wartime past.

However, ties have warmed since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe met South Korean President Park Geun-hye last month.