Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied Monday overseas speculation that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might be considering issuing a new statement to supersede the key government apology over the “comfort women,” the girls and women forced to provide sex to Japanese troops during the war, rejecting a proposal from a close Abe aide.

“That’s impossible. I’ve never heard such an idea from the prime minister,” Suga said at a daily news conference, referring to a proposal from Koichi Hagiuda, a special adviser to Abe in the prime minister’s capacity as head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

“We have repeatedly said we uphold (the 1993 Kono statement). The prime minister has also said he will not revise it. That explains it all,” Suga said.

On Sunday, Hagiuda reportedly said Japan should consider issuing a new statement on the “comfort women” issue if fresh facts are found while the government re-examines how the 1993 apology was drafted.

Hagiuda also maintained that Abe himself had not denied such an idea, drawing a strong protest from the South Korean Foreign Ministry.

Suga emphasized that Hagiuda’s view is a personal one and confirmed that his own statement is the government’s official stance on this issue.

Suga has said he will re-examine how the Kono statement was drafted through political negotiations between Tokyo and Seoul. But that study will not lead to either a revision of the statement or the issuing of a new statement, Suga reiterated.

The euphemistic term comfort women is often described as sexual slavery by the media and by those supporting them. They were given no chance to quit and were subjected to severe working conditions.

Hagiuda’s remarks came just as Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye were finally set to meet, together with U.S. President Barack Obama, on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands this week.

Suga admitted that Tokyo and Seoul are holding talks to arrange a bureau chief-level meeting on the “comfort women” issue, as earlier announced by South Korean government.

“We haven’t made a decision yet, but we have continued communications (with Seoul) on various levels,” Suga said.

“(The reported bureau chief-level talks) are among them,” he added.

But exactly what the two countries would discuss at the talks remains unclear.

Tokyo staunchly maintains that all compensation claims regarding Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule over the Korean Peninsula have been “completely and finally” settled, as stated in the 1965 basic treaty of the South Korea-Japan relationship.

Later Monday, a senior government official said Tokyo’s stance on the compensation issue has not changed at all.

Rutte urges dialogue

The Hague JIJI

Prime Minister Mark Rutte of the Netherlands expressed hopes Sunday during a meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that Tokyo will make efforts to mend its relationships with regional neighbors China and South Korea.

During their meeting in The Hague, Abe said: “Japan has been responding in a calm manner from a broad perspective. Its stance is that doors to dialogue are always open,” according to Japanese officials.

Rutte was quoted as replying that it is important to promote such dialogue between Japan and China and between Japan and South Korea.

Abe emphasized Japan’s commitment to future-oriented diplomacy as well as its sincere recognition of the past, adding that Japan will continue programs to address the emotional damage inflicted on Dutch people who were detained and mistreated by the now-defunct Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.

When Abe requested support for his “proactive pacifism” policy, Rutte replied positively, saying he recognized Japan’s active efforts on behalf of the international community.

The two leaders pledged further cooperation as strategic partners that share fundamental values.

Regarding the situation in Ukraine, Abe emphasized that unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force can never been tolerated, adding that China’s coercive behavior in the East China Sea meant that the crisis in Ukraine should be viewed as a global rather than regional issue.

Abe and Rutte agreed on the importance of finding a peaceful solution to the crisis.

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