Suga claims Kono Statement will not be revised

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Suga claims Kono Statement will not be revised

Following international backlash, the administration of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to be backpedaling from its initial statements, saying it will not revise the 1993 Kono Statement, which admitted to and apologized for the Japanese military’s forceful recruitment of women and girls into sexual slavery during World War II.

“We are not thinking about changing the Kono Statement,” Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, the chief cabinet secretary, stated at a press conference on Monday, referring to the landmark apology made on Aug. 4, 1993, by Yohei Kono, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary at the time.

However, he added that the government is still planning to form a panel of experts to re-examine the evidence used to back up the statement, mostly testimonies from 16 Korean women who were forced into prostitution during the war. It is a decision that Seoul has strongly condemned. Suga’s remarks are the first by a cabinet member that clearly state the administration does not intend to change the statement itself since the Abe government proposed to re-examine the testimony two weeks ago which suggested a revision or denial of an apology.

This comes as Washington appears to be sending warning signals to Tokyo over the issue. Japanese broadcaster TBS reported on Monday that an official from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo conveyed to the Abe administration that re-examining the 1993 Kono Statement was “not desirable.”

Likewise, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said on Monday, “We encourage Japan’s leadership to approach this and other issues arising from the past in a manner that is conducive to building stronger relations with its neighbors.”

Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se at a UN Human Rights Council meeting last week called a re-examination of the Kono Statement and insensitive remarks by Japanese leaders “an affront to humanity and a disregard for the historical truth.”

“Those victims have gone through indescribable pain,” Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said at a briefing yesterday, noting Suga’s comments from the previous day. “Considering that these victims are now elderly, this issue must be resolved one day quicker, and the Japanese government has to make efforts to resolve this.”

Korea and Japan, meanwhile, are scheduled to hold vice-ministerial level talks today in Seoul. The Korean Foreign Ministry confirmed yesterday that Japanese Vice Foreign Minister Akitaka Saiki will arrive today in Seoul for a two-day visit.

He is slated to holds talks with his Korean counterpart, First Vice Minister Cho Tae-yong, on bilateral issues and the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Seoul and Tokyo have yet to hold a presidential or foreign ministerial summit under the Abe and Park Geun-hye administrations. Additionally, spokesman Cho yesterday expressed words of consolation from Korean citizens to the Japanese upon the third anniversary of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. “We hope we can speedily meet conditions where we can make a future together,” he said.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]


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