The government has expressed its displeasure to U.S. officials over a plan to unveil in California next week a monument dedicated to Korean “comfort women” forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during the war, according to diplomatic sources.
The plan by a U.S.-South Korean civic group to erect the monument on a public lot at a park in Glendale goes against Tokyo’s views on the comfort women issue and it has urged local officials to take appropriate measures, the sources said.
Japan has repeatedly claimed the issue was settled by a Japan-South Korea treaty in 1965 that normalized diplomatic ties and has provided compensation through a private fund. But the former comfort women have continued to call for official compensation.
The sources said the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles conveyed displeasure to officials of the city of Glendale and the Glendale City Council.
The city council has approved putting up the monument, which news reports say is likely to be a replica of a statue set up in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in December 2011.
That statue, which shows a teenage Korean girl in traditional clothing, had reignited attention on the issue of the comfort women, Japan’s euphemism for the sex slaves, and prompted Japan to protest and call for the statue’s removal.
Japan initially hesitated about whether to make its displeasure known to the United States amid worries it may be seen by the country and the international community as overreacting and not remorseful of its wartime past, a Japanese government source said.
“Japan does not want to make the comfort women a diplomatic issue,” a government official said, adding, “We’re not seeking the monument’s removal.”
Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Kuni Sato said at a news conference Wednesday that Japan has done its utmost to address the issue by creating a fund to compensate the victims.
The private fund, the Asian Women’s Fund, was created in 1995 but some former comfort women have rejected the money.
The women and their supporters criticized the fund as an attempt by the Japanese government to skirt responsibility for state redress. The fund was disbanded in 2007.
In a 1993 statement by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, Japan acknowledged and apologized for the forced recruitment of females into sexual servitude.
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