A recent accord which saw Japan account for its culpability in forcing women to work in military brothels during WWII could be in jeopardy as Japan has said its hefty contribution to set up a fund for the surviving victims will be dependent on the removal of a "comfort women" statue in Seoul.
Local media on Thursday cited a government source here as saying that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the payment of 1 billion yen (around 8.3 million U.S. dollars) from the national budget to create a new foundation to support the former comfort women will be contingent on Seoul removing the protest statue.
The statue in question was erected by a South Korean civic group - the Korean Council for Women Drafted for Sexual Slavery by Japan - in 2011 near the Japanese embassy in Seoul.
Japan's Kyodo News Agency reported the "looming opposition by some in Japan to a plan to release the public funds."
The latest development could sour the agreement, which was initially hailed as the "comfort women" issue has severely strained ties between Tokyo and Seoul to the point that Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye only met for the first time face-to-face last month.
The South Korean civic group, which supports women forced into Japanese military brothels before and during WWII, has rejected Japan's calls to remove the statue.
It vowed in a rally on Wednesday to create more statues both in South Korea and outside the country to draw greater attention to its cause.
As Abe by proxy renewed an official apology for the wartime travesty committed by Japan's military in WWII during its brutal occupation of the Korean Peninsular, politicians and political analysts here alike believed the divide between the two countries may have finally been bridged to a degree.
However, some analysts also believed that Abe's proviso could see the deal unravel though the current Japanese government recognizes its responsibility over the issue and the "grave affront to the honor and dignity of large numbers of women" caused by the Imperial Japanese Army during the war.
Some skeptics even suggested that Japan was, in making the accord, trying to "purchase" a clear conscience in line with its revisionist agenda, while others dismissed the move as a public relations push ahead of elections here next summer.