The Japanese government lodged a protest with local authorities in a central Berlin district after it was decided a statue symbolizing Korean "comfort women" would remain in place for an extra year, the top government spokesman said Monday.
"This is not acceptable. We have strongly protested it," Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said in a regular news conference.
The statue symbolizing Korean women forced to work in Japanese wartime brothels was erected last September in a public space by a pro-South Korean civic group. It was initially planned to stand for only one year.
While Tokyo has repeatedly urged the Mitte district in the German capital to rescind the permit allowing the statue to stand in the area, the district said last October it would allow it to remain for the time being and that it hopes Japan and South Korea can reach a compromise on its presence.
The district assembly passed a resolution in December supporting the permanent installation of the statue.
Kato said the government will continue to seek the statue's removal, saying, "There are multiple cases in which attempts (to install statues) ended after we took various actions to gain people's understanding."
Such statues have been increasingly set up by pro-South Korean civic groups, including near Japanese diplomatic compounds in the South Korean capital Seoul and the port city of Busan.
Issues stemming from Japan's 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula, including reparations for wartime forced labor, have hampered the maintenance of friendly ties between the Asian neighbors.
Japan maintains the two countries settled their wartime issues when they sealed a bilateral agreement in 1965, but many in South Korea believe Tokyo has not been held responsible adequately for its militarist past, including the comfort women issue.