Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would shelve his long-held plan to review the 1993 government statement that expressed remorse for the suffering of "comfort women" before and during World War II.
"The matter should not be turned into a political and diplomatic issue," Abe said in the Lower House on Jan. 31 in response to a question by Kazuo Shii, leader of the Japanese Communist Party. "I, as prime minister, will refrain from making further remarks."
Abe had previously said he wanted to review the statement released in the name of Yohei Kono, chief Cabinet secretary at the time. The statement apologized to the comfort women, who were forced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers, and also acknowledged the Japanese military’s involvement in establishing and managing “comfort” stations and transferring the women.
Abe said in the Diet that he will abide by the official stances of his predecessors on the issue.
"There have been many wars throughout history, involving infringement on the human rights of women," Abe said. "When it comes to the issue of comfort women, my heart aches acutely when I think about those who had to go through painful experiences beyond description. I am no different from successive prime ministers on that point."
He said it would be appropriate for the chief Cabinet secretary to handle matters related to the Kono statement.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated there will be no review of the Kono statement in the near future.
"Experts and historians are studying the subject," Suga told a news conference on Jan. 31. "We currently believe it is desirable to have it studied further from academic viewpoints."
Abe’s suggested review of the Kono statement and his views on Japan’s wartime history have drawn criticism from South Korea and China.
During Abe’s first stint as prime minister, his Cabinet adopted a government statement in March 2007, saying: "The material discovered by the government contained no documentation that directly indicated the so-called coercive recruitment by the military or the authorities."
He also said he would review the Kono statement during the Liberal Democratic Party’s presidential election campaign in September.
"The Kono statement put dishonor on the back of Japan by indicating that the military stormed into houses, kidnapped women and turned them into comfort women," he said.
Abe won the LDP presidential race, and the LDP returned to power in December after winning a landslide in a Lower House election.
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