• Reuters

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s planned statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will likely reflect his view that the human rights of “comfort women” were violated, according to the policy chief of the Liberal Democratic Party.

The issue of comfort women, who were forced to work in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II, has long haunted Japan’s ties with South Korea. Relations remain chilly even as the two nations near the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties on Monday.

“The prime minister has repeatedly said that the comfort women system was a violation of the women’s human rights and that it was extremely regrettable,” Tomomi Inada, a close Abe ally, said Wednesday.

“I think the (anniversary statement) will be formulated based on that premise,” she added, speaking at an event attended by financial market professionals and media.

She did not say, however, that the anniversary statement would specifically mention comfort women.

Abe has said he stands by the landmark 1993 statement acknowledging Japanese authorities’ involvement in coercing the women, but South Korea says Japan has not done enough to atone and worries he wants to dilute the past apology.

Many Japanese conservatives argue there is no proof of direct military or government involvement in human trafficking for brothels.

Abe has also said he upholds the 1995 apology for suffering caused by Japan’s military aggression issued by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama. But Abe has said he wants to make new, forward-looking remarks in his own words, raising concerns he wants to dilute past apologies.

Inada herself is known for taking what critics consider revisionist stances on sensitive issues relating to Japan’s wartime past, though she is thought by some experts to be trying to tone down her ultra-conservative image.

Inada noted that Abe has already expressed “deep remorse” over the war, stressed Japan’s peaceful path for the past 70 years and expressed Tokyo’s desire to play a bigger role in global security through a policy shift that would ease the Constitution’s limits on military activity overseas.

In addition, she said, Abe has said the 21st century should be an era free from the infringement of women’s human rights.

“The 70th anniversary statement is up to the prime minister, but I think this will be the basic line,” she said.