Japan's top government spokesman says the country will consider what action to take after a group of South Koreans filed to seize some of the assets of a Japanese firm over a wartime labor lawsuit.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the remark while speaking to reporters on Monday.
The four plaintiffs filed the application last week after Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal did not respond to their request for compensation talks by the December 24th deadline. On October 30th, South Korea's Supreme Court ordered the firm to pay damages, accepting the plaintiffs' argument that the steelmaker had forced them to work in mills during World War Two.
The Japanese government criticized the court's decision, maintaining that the issue of damages was settled under a 1965 treaty with South Korea. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in an NHK program aired on Sunday that he had told government ministries to study countermeasures.
On Monday, Suga said the government has been studying how to respond, while watching how South Korea will handle the matter. He added that based on the prime minister's instructions, ministries will work together to discuss how Japan can take resolute action based on international law.
Suga expressed his regret over a series of recent South Korean moves, which he described as "negative for bilateral relations."
He said the Japan-South Korea relationship is in a very severe state, but added that Japan will maintain a consistent stance on wartime labor and keep urging South Korea to respond in an appropriate manner.
In the latest of a series of bilateral disputes, a South Korean naval ship pointed its fire-control radar at a Maritime Self-Defense Force patrol plane over the Sea of Japan on December 20th.
Suga referred to a video the South Korean Defense Ministry released on Friday to counter Japan's position.
Suga said he has been informed that the video presents different arguments from those of Japan's Defense Ministry. He said defense officials from both countries will continue the necessary consultations.