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Abe urged to admit wartime atrocities

Updated: 2014-02-13 00:41
By ZHANG YUNBI in Beijing, CAI HONG in Tokyo and YAO QILIN from Xinhua in Seoul ( China Daily)

Murayama says PM should honor 1995 apology for Japan's past actions

Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said on Wednesday that Japanese leader Shinzo Abe "has no choice but to honor the Murayama Statement" and urged him to be honest about Japan's wartime aggression.

Murayama's remarks came amid increasing tension in Northeast Asia over Tokyo's reluctance to fully shoulder responsibility for forcing Asian women into sexual slavery during World War II and the Sino-Japanese War. Murayama, 90, is on a three-day tour of South Korea that began on Tuesday.

"All previous prime ministers of Japan said they would inherit the Murayama Statement. Abe has also stated that he would inherit the statement. I believe there has been no falsehood in that pledge," Murayama said during his lecture to South Korean lawmakers at their parliamentary headquarters.

During his time in office in 1995, he made an official apology called the "Murayama Statement" that takes responsibility for Japan's past atrocities and wartime aggression during its colonial rule.

Qu Xing, president of the China Institute of International Studies, warned that the current Japanese government has sought opportunities to deny the nation's wartime crimes.

"Several prominent figures in Japanese politics have publicly defended the so-called legitimacy and necessity of forcing women into sexual slavery in times of war, saying that many nations had also done the same thing," Qu said.

Abe stunned the international community last May when he told the Japanese parliament that "so far there has been no unified definition of ‘aggression'".

That same month, Yoshihide Suga, Japan's chief cabinet secretary, also triggered controversy after he stated without any elaboration that the Abe cabinet would continue to "inherit the spirit of the Murayama Statement".

Seoul-based JoongAng Ilbo newspaper said the remarks "deliberately shied away" from keywords including "colonial rule" and "comfort women".

Yang Bojiang, deputy director of the Institute of Japan Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said "it is unlikely" that Abe will reverse course on the comfort women controversy because of his perspective on the history of WWII.

Last month, Katsuto Momii, the new president of Japanese public broadcaster NHK, added to the controversy by claiming that the use of sex slaves, which in Japan were called "comfort women", was common in all countries involved in WWII. Momii later retracted his remarks.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye said in a January interview with CNN that she "hopes the current Japanese leaders will make sure they inherit the Murayama and the Kono statements and refrain from words and acts that put their sincerity into doubt".

Murayama said he was assured that Abe would recognize the Murayama Statement because he cannot deny Japan's past invasions. He added that anyone who denies the Murayama Statement should resign from his Cabinet post.

The Associated Press warned on Wednesday that time is running out for aging former comfort women of South Korea to receive compensation. It also reported that "anger in Seoul is (being) met with frustration in Tokyo".

"The Japanese seem to be of the view that whatever they do will not be enough to satisfy the Koreans, so why bother?" Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum CSIS think tank in Hawaii, told AP.

On Tuesday, Murayama met three South Korean women who were forced into sexual slavery at a Japanese military brothel during WWII. Murayama became the first former Japanese prime minister to meet with the former "comfort women".

Contact the writer at zhangyunbi@chinadaily.com.cn