S.Korea, Japan to resume 'comfort women' talks

SEOUL - South Korea said Friday it would resume suspended high-level talks with Japan next week on the sensitive issue of wartime sex slaves, despite a virtual freeze in diplomatic ties.

The foreign Ministry said the meeting - the third since the two countries started holding monthly talks on the issue in April - would take place in Seoul on Wednesday.

It should have been held in June but Seoul suspended the process in protest at Tokyo's decision to review its landmark 1993 apology for the forcible recruitment of so-called "comfort women" to service military brothels during World War II.

The review upheld the apology, but angered Seoul by asserting there was no evidence to corroborate the testimony of Korean comfort women.

South Korea also rejected the review's finding that its government had been involved in drafting the apology.

Around 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also from China and other Asian countries, were forced to work in Japanese military brothels.

While mainstream Japanese opinion holds that the wartime government was culpable, some right-wing politicians, including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, continue to cast doubt, claiming the brothels were staffed by professional prostitutes.

The equivocation is a huge irritation in Tokyo's relations with East Asia, and with South Korea in particular.

Relations between Tokyo and Seoul are at their lowest ebb in years, mired in emotive disputes linked to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule over the Korean peninsula.

The rift is a source of growing anxiety for Washington, whose strategic "pivot" to Asia is on a more fragile footing with its two main military allies in the region barely on speaking terms.