Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed disappointment Monday at the unveiling of a memorial in Shanghai symbolizing women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military.
“An action like this cannot be said to contribute to an improvement in Japan-China relations, and is extremely regrettable,” Suga said.
The memorial, unveiled Saturday at Shanghai Normal University, consists of a statue of a seated girl wearing traditional Chinese dress next to another girl in South Korean dress in the style of the “comfort woman”statue installed in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul in 2011.
According to people involved with the memorial, it is the first of its kind in China. Similar statues have been unveiled in the United States, Canada and Australia.
“(Japan) feels it is important not to focus on the unhappy history of the past, but to show a willingness to work on the common issues facing the international community in a future-oriented manner,” Suga said.
The future of the original statue in Seoul has remained a sticking point between Japan and South Korea despite reaching a deal last December aimed at permanently settling the comfort women issue.
Under that agreement, Japan deposited ¥1 billion in a South Korean foundation to care for the surviving women and their families.
Asked about the statue in Seoul and the possibility of more statues popping up around the world, Suga responded only that it is “extremely important for (Japan and South Korea) to sincerely execute the agreement.”
Representatives of a South Korean organization seeking to have comfort women-related documents listed as a Memory of the World by UNESCO attended the Shanghai ceremony. The U.N. agency listed Chinese documents related to the 1937 Nanking Massacre on the heritage list last year.
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