The Japanese government is not planning to revise an apology for the military’s use of sex slaves in Asia in the 1930s and 1940s, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said.
Suga told reporters in Tokyo he stood by parliamentary testimony in which he said he planned to verify the evidence and check whether the 1993 statement was agreed to with the South Korean government at the time. He also rejected comments by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who said last week that Japan must make a clean break with the past to get out of an impasse in bilateral relations.
“I am not thinking of revising the Kono Statement,” Suga said, referring to the apology for the treatment of tens of thousands of women, many from South Korea, who were trafficked to military brothels as Japanese troops invaded large parts of Asia. He added that while he planned to maintain the anonymity of the victims, he was willing to present the results of the verification to parliament if requested to do so.
South Korea’s concern that Japan may be vacillating on its apology has further soured ties between the two countries. President Park Geun Hye has refused to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Park said in a March 1 speech after Suga had publicly discussed reviewing the apology that “if a nation continues denying past history, it will only end up driving itself into a corner and looking more miserable.” She said it was “imperative to heal the wounds of the comfort women victims of the Japanese imperial military.”
China shares many of South Korea’s concerns over Japan’s past, and relations between Asia’s two biggest economies are also strained over historical issues. Suga called Wang’s March 8 comments on Japan “extremely regrettable.”
“Our country has upheld freedom, democracy and the rule of law for 69 years and we have contributed to the peace and prosperity of Asia,” Suga said. “I believe that the international community recognizes this.”
Historians say anywhere from 50,000 to 200,000 women were made to serve Japanese troops in brothels across Asia. The Japanese government set up a fund to compensate victims, some of whom rejected the money because it came from private donors.