Joint statement expected to urge Japan to atone

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Joint statement expected to urge Japan to atone

South Korea’s National Assembly and China’s National People’s Congress agreed to issue a joint statement commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, in which the two neighbors are expected to call on Japan to face up to its past transgressions.

Multiple sources from the diplomatic circle told the JoongAng Ilbo that the two sides reached a tentative agreement on the content to be included in the unprecedented declaration by both nations.

The statement is slated to come before Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s much anticipated 70th anniversary address in August.

Whether he will be forthright in acknowledging the damage Japan inflicted during the first half of the 20th century and make a formal apology has sparked tremendous interest from its neighbors in the region, particularly Korea and other formerly colonized nations.

“The statement will demand that Japan look at its history without bias and express concerns held by Korea and China over Japan’s recent moves to allow its military to expand its operational capabilities,” said a diplomatic source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The agreement by Seoul and Beijing comes amid persistent tension in the region regarding what is seen as Japan’s efforts to whitewash its wartime atrocities, specifically its military’s forced recruitment of thousands of young women and girls from its former colonies into sexual slavery under what has become known as the “comfort system.”

Abe has never directly apologized to the surviving victims, aside from expressing his regret for what he described as “human trafficking.”

A National Assembly official involved in the talks said Korea and China came to an understanding on the need for a joint statement when Assembly Speaker Chung Ui-hwa visited his Chinese counterpart Zhang Dejiang, the chairman of the People’s Congress Standing Committee, in December last year.

“Zhang will talk with Chung on his scheduled visit to Seoul next month to finalize the statement,” said a National Assembly official, who requested anonymity.

The Chinese official is also scheduled to meet President Park Geun-hye, who has yet to hold talks with her Japanese counterpart since taking office in 2013 in an apparent display of disgruntlement over his historical perspectives.

The statement reportedly could be released under Chung and Zhang’s names on behalf of lawmakers in Seoul and Beijing.

Ruling Saenuri Party Rep. Na Kyung-won, who presides over Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee in the National Assembly, quoted Zhang Ping, one of the 13 vice chairs of the People’s Congress, as saying during their meeting Wednesday that China’s leadership is opposed to Japan’s bid to designate 23 industrial locations as Unesco World Heritage Sites.

These locations house just some of the venues where Korean men were recruited by Japan as forced laborers during the colonial era (1910-1945).

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