JAPAN said yesterday that it will not change a landmark 1993 apology over wartime sex slavery despite an inflammatory review that said there was no corroboration of evidence given by former “comfort women.”
South Korea’s foreign ministry swiftly expressed “deep regret” at the review results, which it said distorted facts and undermined Japan’s 1993 apology.
The government of conservative Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe said earlier this year that it would not reverse the apology, known as the Kono statement, which was issued under a liberal government and acknowledged official complicity in the practice for the first time.
The review, launched as an apparent sop to fellow right-wingers, was putatively established to examine how the decision to apologize was reached, and on what historical facts it was based.
“There is no change in the government’s position to uphold” the 1993 apology, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said after the review was submitted to parliament yesterday.
“There is no change in Japan’s position that we feel our hearts aching over those who suffered hardships that are beyond all description,” the top government spokesman said.
About 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also from China and Indonesia among others, were forced to work in brothels as “comfort women,” serving troops as Japan stomped across Asia before and during World War II.
While mainstream Japanese opinion holds that the wartime government was culpable, a tranche of the political right, including Abe, continues to cast doubt, claiming the brothels were staffed by prostitutes.
Yesterday, Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said there was incontrovertible evidence of the Japanese government’s wrongdoing.
“The forcible recruitment of ‘comfort women’ was an anti-human and atrocious crime committed by Japanese militarism against victims of Asian countries,” she said.
“We hope that the Japanese side can face up to history and be responsible with its commitment and statement, and properly deal with issues left over from history.”