Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on Tuesday and praised him for the "courage and sense of responsibility" he showed as a politician in addressing history when he was in the government in 1993.

The praise was an allusion to what became known as the Kono statement, the government's official apology to the "comfort women," Japan's euphemism for the thousands of girls and women who were rounded up to provide sex for Imperial soldiers in Japan's wartime military brothels.

Speaking at the outset of their talks at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Li said Japan during Kono's time had shown a "correct" understanding of history, a comment clearly intended to draw a contrast with the position taken by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's current administration, which China regularly criticizes for taking what it sees as an unrepentant attitude toward the war.