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(2nd LD) Park raps Japan over wartime sex slaves ahead of Xi's Seoul visit

All Headlines 23:39 July 02, 2014

(ATTN: UPDATES with Japanese foreign ministry spokeswoman's reaction in 10th para)

BEIJING, July 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye rebuked Japan on Wednesday for taking a "retrogressive" attitude to its wartime atrocities, including its wartime sex slavery, on the eve of a closely watched visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to Seoul.

Park, in an interview with China's state broadcaster CCTV, also said that South Korea and China have maintained a "close consultation" on ways to resolve North Korea's nuclear weapons program, which will top the agenda for the Thursday summit between Park and Xi.

In particular, Park criticized Japan for attempting to undermine the credibility of its 1993 apology over wartime sexual enslavement of women during World War II, describing the move as an "act that betrayed trust between the nations."

Last month, Japan drew criticism from both South Korea and China by announcing the results of its review on the 1993 statement issued by then Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that acknowledged its forced recruitment of women into prostitution for Japan's wartime military.

Although Japan has made clear that it won't revise the apology, the results of the Japanese review showed that the so-called Kono Statement was written through coordination with South Korea, a disclosure that is widely viewed as an attempt to undermine its credibility.

Historians say up to 200,000 women from Korea, China and other Asian nations were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during the war. Those sex slaves were euphemistically called "comfort women."

"Japan has recently been trying to harm the Kono Statement by verifying the process of drafting it," Park said. "I think that it is an act that deeply hurt the victims, an act that betrayed trust between the nations and an act that ignores the stern voice of the international community."

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The Korean victims of Japan's sexual slavery are one of the most emotional issues that still remain unresolved between South Korea and Japan. The Korean Peninsula was a Japanese colony from 1910-45.

"The wheel of history can't be turned back," Park said. "Japan is an important nation to cooperate for peace and prosperity of the Northeast Asia. It is regrettable that South Korea-Japan relations don't move forward because of retrogressive words and wrongful perception of history by some Japanese leaders."

In Tokyo, Japanese foreign ministry spokeswoman Kuni Sato expressed "regret" over Park's remarks, saying the Japanese government has no intentions to undermine the Kono statement.

China has been in lockstep with South Korea in its policy toward Japan's unrepentant attitude toward its wartime wrongdoings.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin told reporters on Tuesday that Park and Xi could discuss Japan during the Thursday summit.

"Both China and South Korea were victims of Japan's militarist aggression. So, China and South Korea share the same concern over this issue," Liu said.

"Whenever the leaders of both countries have talks with each other, they naturally mention the militaristic history of Japan, in particular, given the fact that some right-wing forces in Japan are trying to reverse history," Liu said.

"It is natural that the two countries may involve Japan in their discussions," Liu said.


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