SEOUL – South Korean President Park Geun-hye said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe missed an opportunity to improve ties between their countries by not apologizing for Japan’s wartime use of sex slaves during his U.S. trip.
“There is much criticism, even in the U.S., about the Abe government not taking advantage of the chance to strengthen trust with neighboring nations with a sincere apology over historical issues, including the (wartime) ‘comfort women’ victims,” Park said Monday at a meeting with secretaries, according to her office’s website.
Park’s demands that Abe do more to atone for Japan’s wartime aggression have added to tensions over the Takeshima-Dokdo territorial dispute and soured South Korea-Japan relations. The rift between the two biggest U.S. allies in North Asia is complicating President Barack Obama’s shift to Asia and his effort to maintain a united front to contend with a nuclear North Korea and a more assertive China.
Park has demanded Abe do more to apologize to the Korean victims before she will agree to a two-way summit.
There are more than 50 women in South Korea who claim to be survivors of women who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels. They have become a symbol of Korean suffering during Japan’s colonial rule from 1910 until the end of World War II in 1945.
During his speech at the U.S. Congress last week, Abe expressed “deep remorse” for unspecified suffering caused by his nation’s wartime actions while offering no new apology to the women from Korea and other nations forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in the early 20th century.
Earlier in the trip, Abe said he was “deeply pained to think about the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering as a result of victimization due to human trafficking.”
Abe has been lobbying to improve ties with Park as well as China, which shares South Korea’s concerns about historical issues. He told Park after the funeral for Singapore founder Lee Kuan Yew in March that he hoped for a summit with China and South Korea.