South Korean President Park Geun-hye yesterday expressed relief over remarks by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that his government would adhere to apologies for wartime behavior made by past cabinets in 1993 and 1995.
Ties with South Korea and China, already strained after Abe’s visit in December last year to the Yasukuni Shrine, have deteriorated further, with Japanese nationalist politicians urging Abe’s Cabinet to rescind the apologies.
The apologies were issued by then-Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 and then-Japanese prime minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995.
“It is a relief that Prime Minister Abe announced his government will uphold the Murayama Statement and the Kono Statement,” Park was quoted as saying by South Korean Blue House spokesman Min Kyung-wook.
“President Park also expressed hopes that this becomes an opportunity in which we can alleviate the pain of the ‘comfort women’ victims and solidify the bilateral relationship of South Korea and Japan, as well as that of Northeast Asia,” Min added at a briefing yesterday.
The first apology recognized the involvement of Japanese authorities in coercing women to work in military brothels and the next concerned suffering caused by the war and the Japanese colonial rule imposed on neighbors, including South Korea and China.
Amid mounting tension with neighbors and growing pressure by the US, Abe told a Japanese parliamentary panel on Friday that his Cabinet had no intention of reviewing the statements made by his predecessors.
Under pressure to improve ties with South Korea ahead of a visit by US President Barack Obama next month, Tokyo has been trying to arrange a meeting of Abe, Park and Obama on the sidelines of a global nuclear-security summit in the Netherlands at the end of this month.