U.S. lawmaker blasts report on Kono Statement

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U.S. lawmaker blasts report on Kono Statement

An 11-term U.S. congressman sent a strong message berating a report by Tokyo last week based on a review of the Kono Statement, an effort by Japan to deny its historical transgressions.

“I think it is very important that the government in Japan distance itself from the deniers [of history],” Rep. Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said on Wednesday. “[Those people] are doing a disservice to the next generation.”

Royce made the remarks at a meeting with Korea’s First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Tae-yong in Washington.

Cho, who is on a five-day visit to Washington, conveyed to U.S. officials Korea’s concerns with Japan’s so-called review of the statement delivered by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in August 1993, which acknowledged and apologized for the Japanese military’s involvement in the coercion and mobilization of young women and girls into sexual slavery.

In a two-month study, a panel commissioned by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government concluded on June 20 that the wording of the landmark apology was, in fact, a result of secret consultations between Seoul and Tokyo.

The report has received international backlash for appearing to undermine Japan’s sincere repentance for its Imperial Army’s coercion and mobilization of girls and women during its colonial rule over Asian countries.

“It is very important that we learn from history so that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Royce said. Over the years, the California lawmaker has been a strong proponent of the “comfort women” cause and was a cosponsor of the unprecedented House Resolution 121, passed in 2007 by the U.S. House of Representatives that called for an official apology from the Japanese government for its sexual enslavement of women.

Cho expressed appreciation for Royce’s support, and said that such words send a “strong signal” to historical revisionists. Japan’s “efforts to rewrite history will never succeed,” he added.

The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs has begun its countermove against Japan’s provocative actions and on Wednesday posted on the front page of its website a link entitled “Our position on the review of the Kono Statement.”

The page compiled links to the Foreign Ministry’s position, the spokesman’s statement released last Friday and a list of articles from various media sources responding to the panel’s report, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Diplomat and the China Daily.

The Foreign Ministry’s detailed view on its Web site expressed “strong regret and disappointment” for the Shinzo Abe administration’s “undeniable” attempt to challenge the Kono Statement.

It reiterated that the Korean government has emphasized from the beginning that the Kono Statement was a result of the Japanese government’s self-initiated investigation and judgment, which was made “of its own free will.” Japanese officials at that time “earnestly requested our government’s input on the drafting of the Kono Statement,” it said, and that Seoul gave its opinions on the pretext that they were unofficial.

In July 1993, as 16 former Korean comfort women provided their testimonies during a Japanese-initiated investigation, a high-level Tokyo official conveyed to Seoul that those testimonies would be the foundation of the Kono Statement.

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

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