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Abe drops govt plan to review statement on 'comfort women'

By Agence France-Presse in Tokyo | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-15 08:03

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday that his government would not revise a landmark 1993 "comfort women" apology and said he was "deeply pained" by the suffering of women drawn into a system of wartime brothels.

Abe has faced criticism for his government's plan to review what is known as the Kono Statement, which acknowledged official complicity in the coercion of military sex slaves, a historical legacy that draws raw resentment in neighboring China and South Korea.

In the statement, former chief Cabinet secretary Yohei Kono acknowledged that the Japanese government and its Imperial Army was involved in the recruitment of between 200,000 and 400,000 girls and women and forced them to serve in brothels.

"I'm not thinking about revising (the statement) under my Cabinet," Abe was quoted as saying by Japan's Kyodo News.

On Friday, Abe said that his Cabinet "upholds the position on the recognition of history outlined by the previous administrations in its entirety" including the Kono Statement.

"With regard to the comfort women issue, I am deeply pained to think of the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering, a feeling I share equally with my predecessors," he told a parliamentary committee, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"The Kono Statement addresses this issue. ... As my Chief Cabinet Secretary (Yoshihide) Suga stated in news conferences, the Abe Cabinet has no intention to review it."

Suga, the government's top spokesman, said on Monday that there was no plan to revise the statement, adding that Tokyo's review was aimed at verifying historical facts and to determine if South Korea was involved in drafting its text.

Neither Suga's comments, nor the latest remarks from Abe, clarified what would happen if Tokyo's review was at odds with the official apology.

In 1993, after hearing testimony from 16 Korean women, Japan offered "sincere apologies and remorse" to the women and vowed to face the historical facts squarely.

But repeated wavering on the issue among senior right-wing politicians has contributed to a feeling in South Korea that Japan is in denial and is not sufficiently remorseful.

Some Japanese conservatives have responded that Tokyo has repeatedly apologized and that the issue was being used for political gain.

"As I have stated earlier, we must be humble in front of history," Abe also said Friday.

"The issues of history should not be politicized or be turned into a diplomatic issue. Research on history should be entrusted to experts and historians," he added.

On Thursday, South Korea signaled that it would not go ahead with a mooted leaders' summit with Japan, after talks between top diplomats failed to produce a breakthrough on their badly strained ties.

The countries' deputy foreign ministers met on Wednesday in a bid to thaw relations, which remain frosty over emotive issues linked to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, including the wartime sex slaves and a territorial dispute.

Abe, who came to power in December 2012, is an unpopular figure in South Korea and has not held summit talks with President Park Geun-hye, who has warned Japan that it would face "isolation" if it revisited the apology.

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