Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on Monday denied a media report that Seoul has demanded Prime Minister Shinzo Abe apologize over the “comfort women” issue during the upcoming summit between Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
“I haven’t received any report. There is no fact like that, either,” Suga told a regularly scheduled news conference.
“Comfort women” refers to girls and women who were forced to provide sex for Japanese troops before and during World War II.
Abe, Park and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang plan to hold a trilateral summit in Seoul next Sunday, the first of its kind since May 2012. Abe and Park are also considering holding a bilateral summit on the sidelines.
Seoul has proposed holding that meeting next Monday, a South Korean official at the presidential Blue House said.
“We recently made an offer for the summit on Nov. 2 and are awaiting Japan’s reply,” the official said.
The last Japan-South Korea summit was on the sidelines of the 2012 trilateral meeting.
According to Monday’s online edition of the conservative Sankei Shimbun, Seoul has demanded that Abe extend an apology during the summit, and that Tokyo has rejected this proposal.
“Japan has been deceived (by South Korea) over comfort women and (other) historical issues many times. We wish we could apologize during a summit meeting so that no troubles will be left behind for future generations, but we have always been betrayed,” the Sankei quoted an unnamed source close to Abe as saying.
South Korea has long demanded that Japan extend more formal apologies and compensation for surviving former comfort women.
In 1995, Japan set up a government-linked fund to pay “atonement money” and shoulder costs of various welfare support programs for the women.
A letter of official apology, signed by four prime ministers from 1996 through 2001, was sent to victims who agreed to receive the funds.
But many have refused to accept the money, saying it did not directly come from the Japanese government. They have instead demanded a more formal apology from top Japanese leaders.
Meanwhile on Monday, the online Japanese edition of the Chosun Ilbo, a major South Korean newspaper, reported that the Park-Abe meeting is likely to avoid historical issues and instead focus on topics such as North Korea’s nuclear weapons development and the scope of operations the Self-Defense Forces could potentially undertake in the event of a crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
“The comfort women-related issue is not something on which a conclusion can be drawn during the South Korea-Japan summit at this time,” an unnamed source in Park’s presidential office was quoted as saying by the Chosun Ilbo. “(Instead) President Park will clearly tell Prime Minister Abe that the SDF would not be allowed to enter the Korean Peninsula without the consent of South Korea.”
Information from Kyodo added