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"We have been honest in executing every promise we made". Keeping this promise is an global and universal principle. He also said Tokyo has sincerely carried out the deal thoroughly, and that Seoul needs to do the same.

Abe's remarks, the first from the Japanese leader since South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for the apology during a recent New Year's press conference, came despite Seoul not requesting a bilateral deal on the issue be renegotiated, Xinhua news agency reported. "We can not accept South Korea's unilateral demands for additional measures". During Abe's visit, leaders will likely confirm their aim to promote inroads by corporate Japan there.

The goal is to make use of the strengths of long-term government and expand the frontiers of Japanese diplomacy, as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga puts it. Tokyo intends to win widespread acceptance for key policies, such as those regarding North Korea and the European Union trade deal.

Yoshihide Suga, the top Japanese government spokesman and the Chief Cabinet Secretary, said Wednesday: "Japan can never accept it if the South Korean side demands we take further measures despite the agreement that confirmed the final and irreversible solution on the issue".

The highly emotive issue has poured cold water over improving bilateral ties between Tokyo and Seoul, as the two United States allies seek closer cooperation on regional security threats such as North Korea.

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But he did not clarify whether the apology was meant to include the no-go zone comments when asked on Wednesday. Wednesday's press conference was not Hoekstra's first awkward exchange with a Dutch reporter.

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Last year, spokesperson Hua Chunying called rumors of a potential naval base at Gwadar "irresponsible remarks" and "hearsay". He hoped that the cooperation between the two friendly countries would further grow in future.

The so-called "comfort women" issue involved soldiers from the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA) during World War II, forcibly coercing and even kidnapping girls, some of them underage, and women, and forcing them to work as sex slaves, servicing Japanese soldiers at military brothels during the war. But the South Korean government has no closure. Tokyo says it should not be strong-armed into a form of "apology diplomacy".

Japan and South Korea share a bitter history that includes Japan's 1910-45 colonization of the peninsula and the "comfort women" issue is especially touchy.

And in 1993, Tokyo extended "its honest apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women".

Tokyo has reacted angrily to comments on the issue this week by Seoul.


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