BEIJING – China has cautiously welcomed a landmark deal struck by Japan and South Korea on the issue of Korean women who were forced into wartime brothels for the Japanese military.
“We hope that an improvement in relations between South Korea and Japan will be conducive to this region’s stability and development,” the Foreign Ministry’s top spokesman, Lu Kang, told a regular press briefing Monday.
As with South Korea, Japan’s relations with China have often been strained by what Beijing sees as Tokyo’s failure to properly atone for the suffering it caused before and during World War II.
Calling the “comfort women” system a “grave inhuman crime,” Lu said China has consistently urged Japan to “reflect on its history of aggression, take responsible behavior and properly handle relevant issues.”
The Imperial Japanese Army also set up “comfort stations” in various parts of China and other parts of Asia with the initial aim of preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among officers and reducing sex crimes in occupied areas.
In contrast to South Korea, the Chinese government did not focus its spotlight on the plight of the women until recently.
However, keeping in step with South Korea, the suffering of the women has started getting more attention in China, as Beijing, since Xi Jinping’s rise to power about three years ago, has been using historical issues as diplomatic cards against Japan.
Earlier this month, China opened its first museum dedicated to the former comfort women in Nanjing.
China also last year nominated materials related to the women and the Nanking Massacre for UNESCO listing.
Documents on the 1937 massacre by the Japanese army in the city now known as Nanjing were included this year in the Memory of the World program by UNESCO.
However, the U.N. agency did not add those materials regarding comfort women to its list.