Tokyo will neither revise a landmark 1993 apology to the “comfort women” forced to work in Japan’s wartime military brothels, nor issue a new statement on the matter, the country’s top government spokesman said yesterday, a day after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said nations must face the facts of history while on a visit to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.
“[The government] will examine the statement, but we will not revise it,” Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.
He also denied the possibility of a new government statement on the issue, as suggested by close Abe aide Koichi Hagiuda over the weekend.
The Kyodo news agency and other media reported over the weekend that Hagiuda suggested Japan issue a new statement on comfort women if a review of the procedures that led to the government’s apology uncovered new facts.
Earlier this month, Abe said his government would not revise the apology issued by then-Japanese chief Cabinet secretary Yohei Kono, which recognized the involvement of Japanese authorities in forcing the women to work in the brothels — a point many conservative Japanese dispute.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye expressed relief over Abe’s remarks at the time and the two leaders are set to join US President Barack Obama in a three-way summit on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, which started yesterday.
Washington has been pressing allies Tokyo and Seoul to improve ties strained in December last year when Abe angered China and South Korea by visiting Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, which they see as a symbol of Japan’s wartime aggression as it honors convicted war criminals among other war dead.
China’s ambassador to Germany this year compared Abe’s Yasukuni visit to a German chancellor laying flowers on Adolf Hitler’s bunker.
Asked if there is a difference between Abe visiting the memorial to Japanese soldiers at home and a memorial to war victims abroad, a Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman on Sunday said: “There is no contradiction.”
He said Yasukuni enshrines 2.46 million people who died for their country during conflicts since 1853, including both world wars, and that at the time of the December visit, Abe had issued a pledge that Japan must never wage war again.
With his visit to the Anne Frank House, Abe seems to have scored a point in a subtle war of words between China and Japan over their unresolved World War II issues and Beijing’s attempts to put these on a European stage.
“We would like to face the historical facts in a humble manner and to pass on the lessons of history to the next generation,” Abe said at the museum, where he took no questions and left after a brief tour of the hidden annex where Frank and her family hid from the Nazis from 1942 to 1944.
Sources told reporters last month that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) wanted to make WWII a key part of a trip to Germany this month, but had been refused a visit to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.
Xi is also on a state visit in the Netherlands, where he and his wife visited a tulip show on Sunday.