Japan's education minister on Wednesday again distanced his government from previous apologies for the country's wartime atrocities, despite solemn assurances to the contrary earlier.
The remarks came only a day after the leaders of Korea and Japan met with U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday. The meeting marked a slight thaw in strained Korea-Japan relations, and Park only agreed to the summit after Abe promised to uphold apologies for wartime atrocities by former administrations.
But no sooner was the summit over than Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura told a parliamentary meeting Wednesday that the Kono and Murayama statements do not constitute a "unified government view" since they were not adopted by parliament.
Shimomura was responding to the question whether his ministry intends to include the Kono and Murayama statements in the latest revised Japanese school textbooks. His comment suggests they may well be kept out.
Shimomura later defended his comments by saying he was merely explaining that the Diet had not reached a decision on the two statements.
The statement made in 1993 by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono admitted that the Japanese Imperial Army was involved, directly and indirectly, in the sexual enslavement of Asian women for troops in World War II. The 1995 statement by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama admitted and apologized for Japan's colonial rule.
Korea condemned Shimomura's remarks. Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Tae-young said the remarks of the Japanese education minister, "who is supposed to teach a correct historical perspective to the growing generation, cause serious concerns." Cho added such remarks "should not be repeated."