Japan Keeps Chipping Away at Apology for Wartime Crimes

The Japanese government will submit a report to the Diet this week claiming that a 1993 apology for Japan's wartime atrocities only admitted active involvement by the Japanese military in forcing women to serve as sex slaves to Japanese troops because of pressure from Korea.

The move appears part of a long-running campaign by the rightwing government in Tokyo to undermine the apology, known as the Kono statement, and even if true would breach diplomatic protocol in unilaterally revealing details from negotiations on a sensitive diplomatic issue.

But Seoul on Sunday said the Kono Statement was the result of Japan's own decision and warned it would respond firmly if the Abe administration attempts to whitewash the statement.

The statement, by then-Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, admits that the Imperial Army was involved, directly and indirectly, in the sexual enslavement of Asian women, and that coercion was used. A substantial contingent in the Japanese government still claim the atrocity was the result of private enterprise and the government had no responsibility.

In February this year, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for a new statement on wartime sex slavery to replace the Kono statement and tasked five legal experts and five journalists with reviewing it.

Experts say the latest claim is spurious one way or the other. Lee Jong-won at Japan's Waseda University said, "It is natural for two countries to negotiate and fine-tune diplomatic issues," and the move is a blatant attempt to deny responsibility for the atrocity.

Others said Tokyo seems chiefly intent on discrediting the statement, whether or not any part of the campaign makes sense.

A Foreign Ministry official here said the Kono Statement "was compiled on the basis of a study conducted independently by Japan and on Japan's own judgment" and warned that if the Abe government "undercuts" the statement, Seoul will present its own historical records on the issue.

englishnews@chosun.com / Jun. 16, 2014 09:38 KST