WASHINGTON – The United States supported an agreement Monday reached by Japan and South Korea on the long-standing issue of women forced to work at Japan’s wartime military brothels, hoping it will help further cement the trilateral security alliance.
“We support this agreement and its full implementation,” National Security Adviser Susan Rice said in a statement released over the Tokyo-Seoul agreement to settle the “comfort women” issue.
Rice, top foreign policy adviser to President Barack Obama, said the United States believes “this comprehensive resolution is an important gesture of healing and reconciliation that should be welcomed by the international community.”
“The United States applauds the leaders of (South Korea) and Japan, two of our most important allies, for having the courage and vision to forge a lasting settlement to this difficult issue,” she said.
The United States has urged Japan and South Korea, its close security allies in East Asia, to settle the thorny issue of the comfort women, including those from the Korean Peninsula, which was under Japanese colonial rule before and during World War II.
In March 2014 Obama even brokered a trilateral summit with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague in a bid to encourage the Asian leaders to resolve history-related issues.
Japan and South Korea reached an agreement Monday in which Japan offered to provide ¥1 billion for a new South Korean fund aimed at helping aging former comfort women and admitted to involvement by the country’s wartime military in the issue.
A senior official of the State Department expressed hope that the agreement will open “a new chapter of cooperation between Seoul and Tokyo” as well as a trilateral basis with the United States and it will help the countries better deal with regional threats posed by North Korea.
Speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, the official described the details about the Tokyo-Seoul deal as “important landmarks that remove any ambiguity” about Abe’s position on Japan’s responsibility for the comfort women issue and apology.
Abe’s government stirred controversy when its panel reviewed the process of compiling a 1993 statement in which then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized for the comfort women issue, admitting to involvement by the Imperial Japanese forces.
Abe denied intention to rewrite the statement itself but Seoul sharply reacted to the move, suspecting the review could potentially mean Tokyo may try to gloss over wartime aggressions.
In Monday’s agreement Japan admitted to “an involvement of the Japanese military authorities at that time.”
In a statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, Abe said, “Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology for its actions during the war” but stopped short of offering an apology with his own words.
“Prime Minister Abe expresses anew his most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences,” the latest Japan-South Korea agreement said.