The Foreign Ministry on Monday condemned Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's claim that there is no evidence that Asian women were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in World War II.
"The forced mobilization of women as sex slaves by the Imperial Japanese Army is an undeniable fact in history and the Japanese government acknowledged this in the Kono statement in 1993," a Foreign Ministry official here said. "We urge Japan once more to face historical facts with humility and take sincere steps that the victims of the atrocity can accept."
Noda told the Diet on Monday, "There are no records confirming that women were taken away by force and there are no accounts [by former Japanese soldiers], but the Kono statement came out based on the accounts of comfort women."
Noda added his administration nonetheless "seeks to follow the Kono statement as previous administrations have done," but the question of compensating the victims "was resolved under the 1965 Normalization Treaty between Korea and Japan."
The 1993 statement by then Cabinet secretary Yohei Kono acknowledges the existence of "comfort women" and to a certain extent the role played by the Imperial Army.
"Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women."
But Jin Matsubara, the chairman of Japan's National Public Safety Commission, said in a nationally televised meeting at the Diet on Monday, "I think Cabinet members must discuss revising the Kono statement, since no direct evidence has been found proving that comfort women were taken away by force by the military."
Before he took office, Matsubara denied both the existence of sex slaves and the Rape of Nanking, where thousands of people in the Chinese city were raped and murdered, and paid his respects at the militarist Yasukuni Shrine, which houses the remains of convicted war criminals among Japan's war dead.
The Korean Foreign Ministry convened a taskforce for talks seeking compensation from Japan for its World War II atrocities and asking Tokyo to form a bilateral mediating body to discuss the issues surrounding the former sex slaves.
The government plans to propose the mediating body ahead of the first anniversary on Thursday of a ruling by the Constitutional Court that the Korean government was remiss in resolving the grievances of the former sex slaves.
The government offered to hold talks with Japan in September and November of last year to discuss compensation, but Japan did not respond.