Japan may ban visas, money transfers over S Korea wartime labor dispute

Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso says that Japan could ban new visa issuances and money transfers as countermeasures if South Korea goes ahead with the seizure of assets of a Japanese company over the issue of compensation for wartime labor.
Japan is considering a number of retaliatory steps that "are not limited to raising tariffs but include stopping issuing new visas and freezing wire transfers" to South Korean bank accounts, Aso said.
The comments come after a South Korean court approved the seizure of assets from Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp to compensate Koreans for conscripted labor during World War II.
Japan has criticized the court decision, saying the issue was resolved decades ago.
But Aso added that Tokyo and Seoul are in negotiations with the hope that such steps would not be necessary.
"We have to deal with the matter properly," he told the House of Representatives' Financial Affairs Committee.
In October, South Korea's Supreme Court ordered the Japanese steelmaker to compensate four men for forced labor during Japan's 1910 to 1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
A request for seizing Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd's assets has also been filed with the Seoul Central District Court after the top court ordered the Japanese heavy machinery maker to compensate for wartime labor in a similar case.
A team of lawyers representing South Korean plaintiffs who won the wartime labor case against Mitsubishi Heavy is considering seeking a seizure of the company's assets in Europe.
Japan maintains that the issue has already been resolved "finally and completely" under a 1965 accord between the two countries to settle property claims signed alongside the Japan-South Korea treaty that established diplomatic ties.
But the South Korean top court said the right of individuals to claim damages was not terminated by the accord, when it handed down the ruling against the steelmaker.
Tokyo proposed launching talks based on the agreement and is awaiting Seoul's response.

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