U.S. calls for 'urgent' restraint to ease Japan, Korea tensions

WASHINGTON Tue Mar 4, 2014 3:22pm EST

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel (L) shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Lee Kyung-soo during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul January 26, 2014. REUTERS/Ahn Young-joon/Pool

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Russel (L) shakes hands with his South Korean counterpart Lee Kyung-soo during their meeting at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul January 26, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ahn Young-joon/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States expressed concern on Tuesday about tensions between Japan and Korea and said its two main allies in Asia could not afford to let historical rivalry interfere with ensuring security in the region.

"There is an urgent need to show prudence and restraint in dealing with difficult historical issues. It is important to handle them in a way that promotes healing," Washington's top diplomat for the East Asian region, Daniel Russel, said in prepared testimony for a U.S. Senate hearing.

Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said strategic cooperation between the United States, Japan, and South Korea was essential for future security in Northeast Asia, given the threat post by North Korea and other "regional uncertainties," a reference to concerns about an increasingly assertive China.

"No one can afford to allow the burdens of history to prevent us from building a secure future," Russel said.

Russel's testimony came a day after nationalist politicians in Japan urged the Tokyo government to revise a 1993 apology over Asian women forced to serve in wartime brothels, saying accounts that tens of thousands of women were forcibly recruited were a "total lie".

Any revision to the landmark apology made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono would incense China and South Korea, from where most of the "comfort women" were drawn.

Both accuse Japan of failing to atone fully for aggression before and during World War Two.

The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe wants to bolster the military and be less apologetic about the past. It has said it will set up a team to review the testimony of South Korean comfort women, but officials have been careful to avoid any mention of revising or watering down the apology.

Japan's ties with South Korea have been frayed by a territorial row over small islands and the legacy of its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula, including the question of compensation and an apology to the comfort women.

The 1993 apology recognized the involvement of military authorities in the brothel system and apologized for the women's suffering. It was based in part on the testimony of 16 South Korean women, their identities kept anonymous in line with a Japanese government pledge.

On Saturday, South Korean President Park Geun-hye urged Japan to stop denying the past "and write a new history of truth and reconciliation so that we can walk together towards cooperation, peace and co-prosperity."

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Jim Loney and Jonathan Oatis)

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Comments (7)
carlmartel wrote:
If the mothers of all US presidents, cabinet members, and State Department officials had served as comfort women for the Japanese military nine months before the US presidents, cabinet members, and State Department officials were born, this would be a more prominent issue for the US government. If the husbands and other children of these US comfort women for the Japanese military were murdered by the Japanese military, the issue of Japanese wartime atrocities would be a more prominent issue for the US government.

Mar 04, 2014 3:55pm EST  --  Report as abuse
sabrefencer wrote:
What fools…you have so much in common to be friends and yet, you let stupidity, right in the midst of china, north korea, both making aggressive moves, threatening both your countries… Forget the past, unless to learn by it..with Obama, in the white house, you cant depend on the USA for anything…You will need each other, to come to your aid, should you need help from external sources…Don’t let your enemies, play you both, against each other…that is, unless you are just plain STUPID…to which, having visited for business, both your countries many, many, many times, I never thought you were…don’t make me wrong..

Mar 04, 2014 4:56pm EST  --  Report as abuse
2Borknot2B wrote:
Calm cool heads.

Mar 04, 2014 5:00pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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