WASHINGTON – The United States welcomes Prime Minister Shizno Abe’s clarification in a Diet session Friday that he will not abandon the 1993 Kono statement apologizing for wartime sex slaves, a U.S. State Department spokesman said.
“We welcome Prime Minister Abe’s statements in the Diet . . . and consider the comments a positive development,” the spokesman said Friday.
In his landmark 1993 statement, Yohei Kono, then chief Cabinet secretary, for the first time acknowledged the direct involvement of the Japanese military and other authorities in recruiting women, many of whom were Koreans, as prostitutes for military brothels, and apologized to the victims.
In 1995, then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized in a Diet-endorsed statement for the country’s past colonial rule and military aggression across Asia.
These apologies “marked important chapters in Japan’s efforts to improve relations with its neighbors,” the State Department spokesman said.
Pointing out that good relations between Tokyo and Seoul are “in the best interests of the two countries themselves, of the region, and of the United States,” the spokesman reiterated a U.S. call for Japan and South Korea “to work together to resolve their difference in an amicable way through dialogue.”
In a related development Friday, Ambassador to the United States Kenichiro Sasae told a news conference that Abe’s denial in his own words of any intent to review the Kono statement was important. Washington took this point positively, Sasae said, voicing hope Seoul will follow suit.
But he declined to comment on whether a proposed trilateral summit among Japan, the United States and South Korea can be held on the sidelines of an upcoming nuclear security summit in The Hague, the Netherlands, from March 24 to 25. “It’s too early to tell,” Sasae said.