Regional leaders gather at forum

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Regional leaders gather at forum

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Thirty leaders gather yesterday for a forum widely known as the “Korea-China-Japan Group of 30” at Shangri-La Hotel in Yangzhou, China. By Oh Jong-taek

YANGZHOU, China - Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda yesterday criticized a move by a group of Japanese politicians to re-examine and modify the 1995 Murayama Statement, which acknowledged the country’s wartime atrocities, and the 1993 Kono Statement, which effectively apologized for the Imperial Japanese Army’s conscription of Korean women and girls into sexual slavery during World War II.

During a keynote speech at an annual forum of a group of 30 political, business and cultural leaders from Korea, China and Japan, the former prime minister, who served between 2007 and 2008, said the Japanese lawmakers attempting to amend its historical atonement “should be refrained.”

Fukuda added that the Japanese should be humble in looking back on their history and re-evaluating their friendships in a true sense with Korea and China.

The former politician, 78, was referring to two separate apologies. In the 1995 Murayama Statement on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized for the carnage carried out by Japan during the war.

In 1993 in the Kono statement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized for the Japanese Imperial Army’s forcible recruitment of women into military brothels.

It is extremely unusual for a politician from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party to publicly criticize the Shinzo Abe administration.

He went so far as to confess that the biggest barrier to collaboration between Korea, China and Japan is the “history issue, to be honest as a former Japanese prime minister.”

Nearly 150 lawmakers visited the Yasukuni Shrine yesterday in Tokyo, a site that honors Japan’s war criminals, and a day earlier, Abe sent a ritual offering to the site in return for not joining the group.

The group of 146 included 117 lawmakers from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP).

Korea and China instantly rebuked the move, and Japan’s English daily Japan Times said it “could be perceived as provocative by China, South Korea - and even the United States.”

Korea’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement on Monday that Abe’s offering is “an anachronistic act that hurts regional stability as well as good neighbor policies within the region.” China also lodged a protest with Japan shortly after Abe sent the offering.

“The Japanese leader’s presentation of an offering to the Yasukuni shrine and visits by Japanese cabinet ministers to the Yasukuni shrine reflect the erroneous attitude toward history adopted by Japan’s incumbent cabinet,” said China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang.

The gathering of 30 figures, widely dubbed “Korea-China-Japan Group of 30,” was launched in 2006 by three leading media groups of each country to seek solidarity and mutual growth in Northeast Asia.

The media companies are the JoongAng Ilbo, Xinhua and Nihon Keizai. Lee Hong-koo, former prime minister and adviser to the JoongAng Ilbo, leads the Korean members and Fukuda is head of the Japanese members.

The three countries take turns hosting the annual meeting and 40 percent of the proposals made by the group have been reflected in policies.

The 30 also exchanged ideas on how to cope with disasters, such as the Sewol ferry sinking, and agreed that signing a trilateral free trade agreement as soon as possible would spur economic cooperation in Northeast Asia.

On the last day of the two-day forum yesterday, the group came to the consensus that creating an amicable environment is crucial to facilitate a meeting among the leaders of the three nations.

BY SPECIAL REPORTING TEAM [spring@joongang.co.kr]



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