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Japan Recalls Ambassador Over South Korea Statue


A flower is laid on a statue of a girl that represents the sexual victims by the Japanese military during a rally in front of Japanese Consulate in Busan, South Korea, Dec. 30, 2016.

Japan has temporarily recalled its ambassador to South Korea because of a comfort-woman statue installed in front of the Japanese consulate in the South Korean city of Busan.

"Comfort women" is the euphemism for women from across Asia who were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II in frontline brothels.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Friday the placement of the statue was "extremely regrettable." He said Japan was also halting economic discussions with South Korea and suspending talks on a new currency swap arrangement.

The foreign ministers from Japan and South Korea reached a breakthrough settlement on the comfort-women issue in 2015 that included a written apology from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and a pledge by Tokyo to provide a multi-million-dollar fund to support the surviving women.

Activists against the settlement placed the statue near the Japanese consulate late last month. A similar statue has been located near the Japanese embassy in Seoul for several years.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry said it was "very regrettable" that Japan had moved to recall its ambassador. He said the two countries should work together "even when there are difficult problems."