Japan's Abe says won't alter 1993 apology on 'comfort women'

TOKYO Thu Mar 13, 2014 10:39pm EDT

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe points to a reporter during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo March 10, 2014, a day before the third anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that struck the nation's northeast.REUTERS/Issei Kato

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe points to a reporter during a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo March 10, 2014, a day before the third anniversary of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis that struck the nation's northeast.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Friday that his government would not revise a landmark 1993 apology to women, many Korean, forced to serve in wartime military brothels, as Washington presses for better ties between its two Asian allies.

Japan's ties with South Korea are frayed by a territorial row and the legacy of its 1910-1945 colonization of the Korean peninsula, including the issue of compensation and an apology to women, known euphemistically in Japan as "comfort women", forced to serve in military brothels before and during World War Two.

South Korea and China were outraged by signs that Abe's government might water down the apology, issued by then-chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono, which recognized the involvement of Japanese authorities in coercing the women to work in the military brothels - a point many conservative Japanese dispute.

Nationalist politicians have been urging the government to revise the apology, arguing there is no evidence of large-scale coercion by government authorities or the military.

"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," Abe told a parliamentary panel.

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

Abe also said his government adhered to the positions stated by past governments on history, including the 1995 apology for suffering caused by the war given by then-premier Tomiichi Murayama.

"We must be humble regarding history," he said. "Issues regarding history should not be politicized or made diplomatic issues. I think that research on history should be left in the hands of intellectuals and experts."

Japan's already strained ties with both South Korea and China worsened further after Abe paid his respects in December at Yasukuni Shrine, where wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals are honored along with war dead.

Under pressure to improve ties with Seoul ahead of an April visit by U.S. President Barack Obama, Tokyo has been trying to arrange a summit between Abe, South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Obama on the sidelines of a global nuclear-security summit in the Hague, Netherlands, on March 24-25.

A South Korean government official said earlier this week, however, that no progress was likely unless Japan made further efforts to resolve frictions stemming from Japan's wartime past.

And on Thursday, South Korean Foreign Ministry Spokesman Cho Tai-young told a news briefing: "We have no reason to refuse dialogue with Japan if Japan shows that it has changed and creates the right conditions that would make constructive dialogue possible."

Japan has been sending mixed messages on the Kono Statement, announcing that it would review the circumstances behind the apology, but adding that it would not rescind the statement.

Abe himself sparked controversy during his first 2006-2007 term by saying there was no proof Japan's military had kidnapped women for the brothels.

Japan says the matter of compensation for 'comfort women' was settled under a 1965 treaty establishing diplomatic ties. In 1995, Japan set up a fund to make payments to the women from private contributions, but South Korea says that was not official and therefore, insufficient.

(Reporting by Linda Sieg; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Comments (6)
DBeeg wrote:
You’d think the issue would be that everyone was killing each other on sight, but no, some of them were having sex, too. Of what relevance is it whether it happened and whether it was coerced? Those millions of deaths were voluntary?

“Women, we’re sorry that some of you were coerced into sex with solders, during a limited crisis time. Soldiers who were mandated to murder and then died, frequently in agony and surrounded by mutilated corpses, thinking about families, having their lives robbed from them: You expecting something?”

The position of comfort women during the war was an enormous privilege compared to what men received, both those who survived and died, but unimaginably moreso compared to those who died.

Mar 13, 2014 11:59pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
euro-yank wrote:
@DBeeg – you have a warped sense of morality.

Mar 14, 2014 1:37am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Reuters1945 wrote:
The history of the world is a bone chilling history of mass slaughter, premeditated mass genocide and blood curdling depravity committed on a scale of Biblical proportions.

Has the United States of America ever really come to terms or attempted to make any serious amends and/or serious compensation for the wonton genocide and land theft perpetrated against the indigenous people who populated North America for thousands of years before the invasion of the Europeans.

Then what serious amends have been made for the three hundred years of slavery in America.

The invasion and take over of Tibet by China cost well over a million lives. And how many tens of millions were killed by the Nazis during WW II and subsequently by Stalin.

Then one can consider the countless number of Vietnamese who died horrific deaths at the hands of American soldiers not to mention the massive carpet bombings with Napalm and Agent Orange.

And of course we will never know about all the many My Lai type massacres that occurred in Viet Nam that never made it to the front pages of the New York Times. And I have spoken with soldiers who were there.

How many school children know what Columbus really did wherever his ships weighed anchor. Enslaving indigenous people and cutting off the hands of slaves who did not deliver the demanded/required daily quotas of gold and silver.

The atrocities committed by the Turks against the Armenians which Turkey continues to deny even to the present day. The genocide of the Jews by the Third Reich which some people amazingly still continue to claim is all a myth.

The soldiers of Japan’s military committed unspeakable atrocities against the people whose countries they invaded. The fate of the so called “Comfort women” the Japanese kidnapped and enslaved is a part of that nation’s unforgivable history of war crimes.

To attempt to diminish the extent of those crimes perpetrated against defenseless women is sickening in the extreme.

Thus, at the end of the day almost every nation on this Earth has committed more than its share of barbarous “crimes against humanity”.

The history of the world is the history of mass murder, rape, genocide, pillaging and the endless theft of the resources of others.

No one walks away from the table of history without copious amounts of blood dripping from their greedy hands.

And what was done to those poor Souls euphemistically referred to as the “Comfort Women” of WW II is all a part of the larger picture of the saga of this cruel world in which the strong have always made victims of the weak.

And such depraved behavior continues even to this day- more is the pity.

Mar 14, 2014 2:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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