Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he upholds the three principal government apologies over Japan’s role in World War II and its military’s use of sex slaves as he sought to end speculation his administration was questioning Japan’s role in history.
Abe’s visit to a Tokyo shrine in December honoring war dead, including convicted war criminals, and remarks by administration officials questioning the basis for past apologies has outraged China and South Korea and strained relations with the U.S. The U.S., Japan’s biggest ally, expressed disappointment over Abe’s shrine visit.
“The Abe Cabinet upholds the position on the recognition of history outlined by the previous administrations in its entirety,” Abe said in Parliament in order to give a “comprehensive” response on “historical recognition,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Japan’s occupation of much of Asia that ended with its defeat in World War II remains central to diplomatic ties with China and South Korea almost 70 years after the war. South Korean President Park Geun Hye has refused to meet Abe over the historical issues and Chinese President Xi Jinping has also not held a summit with the Japanese prime minister.
In 1995, to mark the 50th anniversary of the war’s end, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama issued a statement saying Japanese “aggression had caused tremendous damage and suffering.” A similar apology was released in 2005 for the 60th anniversary by then-premier Junichiro Koizumi. In 1993 Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono acknowledged “the role of military authorities” in the forcing thousands of women into sexual servitude.
Abe fueled concerns over Japan’s interpretation of history in recent weeks as officials signaled a possible review of the evidence that served as the basis for the 1993 Kono statement on the use of “comfort women” in the 1930s and 1940s. Much of that evidence was given by Korean women who had been forced to work in military brothels.
The Abe Cabinet has “no intention to review” the statement, he said.
“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 said today.
In Japan’s latest bid to improve relations, top diplomat Akitaka Saiki, visited Seoul to meet his counterpart Cho Tae Yong. He cut short his visit and returned home the same day with no apparent progress in arranging a summit.
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at firstname.lastname@example.org Andrew Davis, Neil Western