June 25, 2014 11:43
The Japanese government hopes to endorse a report by a team of experts stating that a 1993 apology for the country's World War II atrocities only took its present form under pressure from Korea.
Tokyo hopes to use the report to woo international support in ducking the responsibility to compensate women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Army during World War II.
In an unusual move, Japan's diplomatic missions abroad, including the Embassy in Korea, have posted an English translation of the report on their websites.
The apology, by then-Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, admits that the Imperial Army was involved, directly and indirectly, in forcing Asian women into sexual slavery for troops. But the current far-right administration of prime Minister Shinzo Abe has embarked on a stealthy campaign to distance itself from the statement.
Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Tuesday that the Kono Statement was the result of "bilateral efforts" between Seoul and Tokyo to build a "future-oriented" relationship, and added that his government intends to explain its efforts to “verify” the statement to the international community.
Rightwing Japanese officials often give the impression that the facts are shrouded in impenetrable mystery, though they are generally thought to be solidly documented.
The report denies that the Imperial Army had a direct hand in forcing the women into sexual slavery and maintains that there is no need to compensate them beyond a lump sum paid under a 1965 treaty. This is why the government here is strongly opposed.
Kishida told reporters that there is a need to check the facts behind the Kono Statement and claimed that this does not harm its validity, which Tokyo has pledged to uphold.
But rightwing Japanese groups and the nation's top-selling Yomiuri Shimbun daily have called for the statement to be revised, claiming it was the result of pressure from Seoul. Kishida repeated Tokyo's official line that all individual compensation claims were settled under the 1965 treaty.
Meanwhile, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun on Tuesday said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga asked that the report address the Asian Women's Fund. The fund was created in 1995 with donations from the Japanese public to compensate victims of Japan's World War II atrocities after successive governments refused to make any more payments.
Most of the former sex slaves in Korea refused money from the fund because it was not administered by the Japanese government.
But some 61 former sex slaves in Korea did accept payments from the fund, the report says, in an apparent attempt to underscore Tokyo's official position that the victims have been sufficiently compensated.
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