Japan Hints at Shifting Position on Sex Slaves

The Japanese government may take "humanitarian measures" for women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Army in World War II, Kyodo News reported Tuesday.

The issue has been one of the most divisive between the two countries over the decades.

"Japan will not respond to calls for compensation by the 'comfort women,' but is considering extending humanitarian measures such as an official apology and funding," Kyodo said.

This is a big departure from the position that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has held since he came to power for the second time in December 2012.

Abe has repeatedly denied that the Japanese government had any involvement in the sexual enslavement of women, and pushed for the revision of the 1993 Kono statement acknowledging direct and indirect involvement of the Imperial Army in rounding up the women.

But under pressure from the U.S. Abe has recently shifted his stance.

A diplomatic source in Tokyo said, "The Japanese government is reviewing various options to show that it is making efforts to improve relations with Korea ahead of the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama. But considering where Abe's support base is, it remains to be seen whether that will lead to anything official and concrete."

englishnews@chosun.com / Apr. 17, 2014 13:12 KST