South Korean President Park Geun-hye welcomed Japan's announcement that it would stand by past historical apologies, her spokesman said Saturday, raising hopes of a turnaround in strained Seoul-Tokyo relations.
"We are glad that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed his intention to inherit the Murayama and Kono statements," Park was quoted as saying by presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook.
"We hope this will be a chance to ease the pain of victims from Japan's wartime sex slavery, and further bolster Tokyo's relationship with Seoul as well as other countries in Northeast Asia," Park added.
The announcement came as Abe said Friday he has no plans to revise the Kono Statement released in 1993. The statement, named after then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, admitted to and apologized for the country's sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.
Abe also said he would keep to the Murayama Statement made in 1995, which offered an apology for Japan's colonial rule of neighboring countries, including Korea.
"The Abe cabinet is not thinking of a revision of it (Kono Statement) as Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in a conference," the prime minister said in a budget committee meeting in the upper house.
"(Issues regarding) historical perspectives should not be made political and diplomatic issues," Abe added, apparently referring to Seoul's refusal to hold a summit with Japan over the so-called comfort women issue. "Studies of history should be left to scholars."
This was the first time the right-wing prime minister officially committed himself to not reviewing the Kono Statement.