TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged South Korea to remove a new statue dedicated to women forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels, as he called on Seoul to implement a bilateral agreement reached in 2015 which aimed to settle the thorny issue.
"The South Korean side should show its sincerity," the premier said on a TV program Sunday, referring to the statue installed late last month outside the Japanese consulate in the southern South Korean city of Busan.
The statue is one of a number in South Korea representing "comfort women" procured for the Japanese military's wartime brothels before and during World War II. The latest statue erection came despite the bilateral agreement in December 2015 aimed at fully settling the issue.
Abe said during the NHK TV program recorded Friday that South Korea should carry out the agreement whether its leadership changes, as this is "a matter of credibility."
The statue issue arose amid political turmoil in South Korea. The parliament impeached President Park Geun Hye last month following a political scandal and her powers have been transferred to acting president and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo Ahn.
In the pact, South Korea said it will strive to solve the issue of a statue which stands in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul "in an appropriate manner." Japan has transferred 1 billion yen ($8.5 million) to care for the surviving victims and their families as part of the deal.
The Japanese prime minister also said he will call on U.S. President-elect Donald Trump to reduce the burden that Okinawa Prefecture bears in hosting the bulk of U.S. military facilities in Japan, when he meets the next American president.
In his election campaign, Trump pledged to make allies contribute more to the costs related to hosting U.S. military forces abroad.
Local protests in Okinawa against U.S. military bases there increased recently after the crash-landing of an Osprey aircraft in nearby waters.
Sources familiar with bilateral relations have said Abe and Trump are arranging a meeting in the United States in late January, shortly after Trump's inauguration. In November, Abe was the first world leader to meet face-to-face with Trump following his victory over Hillary Clinton.