A group of Japanese ruling party lawmakers is set to urge the government to water down parts of an apology it issued to Asian women used as sex slaves in military brothels during World War II, Yomiuri Shimbun said yesterday.
The report came as South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun urged Japan to stop glossing over its wartime past, including the use of sex slaves, and act to settle disputes.
The Liberal Democratic Party panel has drawn up a report on changes it wants made to the "Kono statement," a government apology issued in 1993 when Yohei Kono was chief Cabinet secretary, the Yomiuri said.
"The Kono statement has damaged Japan's image and invited misunderstanding of the facts and spiteful criticism of Japan," the newspaper quoted the group of LDP lawmakers as saying.
But the panel, led by former education minister Nariaki Nakayama, has given up the idea of pushing for a complete rewrite, because Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said he accepts the statement, the paper said.
Abe had in the past questioned the content of the statement, but has said more recently that he stands by it.
The Kono statement, issued after a year-and-a-half of research, acknowledged the role of the military and bureaucracy in coercing women, many of whom were from Korea, into sexual servitude.
The lawmakers' panel disagrees with this, the Yomiuri said.
"Women may have been taken away against their will by private concerns, but there was no kidnapping by the military or bureaucracy," the paper quoted the lawmakers' group as saying.
"All the evidence comes directly from former comfort women. No documentation has been found," the report said the group added.
A spokesman for lawmaker Nakayama's office said the text of the group's findings would not be finalized until after a meeting later in the day.
Meanwhile, in Seoul, Roh said economic and cultural links between the two countries have become strong, Roh said, and they should jointly contribute to peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia.
"We want to become a good neighbor to each other," he said in a speech marking the 88th anniversary of a peaceful mass uprising against Japanese colonial rule.
"For this purpose [Japan] should have an attitude of respecting truth in history and translate it into reality," he said.
"[Japan] should stop glorifying or justifying its wrongful past and take actions sincerely, in accordance with its conscience and internationally accepted principles."
Roh urged Japanese leaders to stop visiting the Yasukuni shrine. It should also offer an apology and compensation to women forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops, he said.
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