• Kyodo

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South Korean President Park Geun-hye said the war anniversary statement that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will issue this month should adhere to the 1995 statement, which offered an apology and described Japanese action during World War II as “aggression.”

Katsuya Okada, head of the Democratic Party of Japan, told a news conference in Seoul that when he met with Park on Monday, she said “it is important” for Abe to reconfirm the 1995 statement by Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama.

The Murayama statement, issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the war’s end ,expressed “feelings of deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology,” and acknowledged that Japan caused “tremendous damage and suffering” to the people of Asia and other countries through its “colonial rule and aggression.”

South Korea, which was under Japanese colonial rule from 1910 to 1945, is closely watching Abe’s forthcoming statement amid concerns he may water down the apologies issued by previous governments.

Park and Okada also discussed the contentious issue of the “comfort women,” or females, including Koreans, who were procured for wartime brothels for the Japanese military.

Park urged Japan to take early action on the matter, saying that as the former comfort women are growing older, now is the last opportunity to resolve the issue, Okada said. She added that a positive settlement of the issue would contribute to diplomatic relations between Japan and South Korea, he said.

South Korea has insisted that Japan recognize its legal responsibility, apologize and directly pay compensation to the women. Japan maintains that all war-related compensation issues were settled under the 1965 Japan-South Korean treaty that normalized bilateral ties.

Okada said he called for a summit to be held soon between Park and Abe. The two leaders have yet to hold one-on-one talks amid the soured relationship. Park replied that resolving bilateral problems one by one will lead to a summit being held, according to Okada.

The South Korean leader said she wants to continue to cooperate and discuss security and economic matters even if historical issues remain unresolved, Okada said.

Park also said she wants to make this year, the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II as well as the 50th anniversary of the normalization of relations between Japan and South Korea, a time to start moving bilateral ties forward.

Okada said he expressed similar views and the two agreed to improve bilateral relations by taking a future-oriented approach.

Following his talks with Park, Okada met with Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se.

“The relationship between Japan and South Korea is not necessarily favorable and public sentiment in each toward the other is severe,” Okada told reporters after talking with Yun. He said that although he is currently in the opposition, “I hope to lead the bilateral relationship into a good direction as much as possible.”

Okada was invited to visit South Korea by Yun when the two met June 22 in Tokyo. Okada has said he aims to supplement government diplomacy amid the soured ties.

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