South Korea lambasted the Japanese education minister Thursday for distancing his government from Tokyo's past apologies for its wartime atrocities, calling on him to refrain from such remarks in future.
Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura reportedly told a parliamentary meeting Wednesday that the Kono Statement and the Murayama Statement do not constitute a unified government view as they were not adopted by the parliament. The remarks appear to be in denial of the two landmark apologies Japan issued in the 1990s for the imperial Japanese army's sexual enslavement of Korean and other Asian women during World War II.
"The Japanese education minister who is supposed to teach a correct historical perspective to the growing generation said that the Murayama and Kono statements do not correspond with the government's position. This is very undesirable," foreign ministry spokesman Cho Tai-young said in a briefing. "These remarks should not be repeated again."
The Japanese minister's remarks came amid rising hopes for improved ties between Seoul and Tokyo after their leaders met in a three-way summit meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in The Hague earlier in the week on the sidelines of an international nuclear security forum there.
It was the South Korean and Japanese leaders' first face-to-face meeting since taking office a year ago. Severe diplomatic tensions over Japan's denial of its wartime sex slavery and renewed territorial claims to the South Korean islets of Dokdo had indefinitely put off a summit meeting of the leaders of the neighboring countries.
Ahead of the Hague meeting, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that he will uphold the two landmark apologies as part of his fence-mending gestures toward Seoul.
"We (the South Korean government) still cherish Prime Minister Abe's remarks (pledging) to inherit former Cabinets' historical perspectives and not to revise the Kono Statement," the spokesman
The spokesman also denounced rightist Japanese lawmaker Shintaro Ishihara's remarks made to justify Japan's colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula (1910-1945).
The outspoken lawmaker said in a meeting with foreign correspondents a day earlier that the Japanese colonial rule of Korea was only meant to defend itself from the security environment at that time.
"The remarks by the man have been much repeated over time," the spokesman said. "He will have to look back on himself and realize shame."
South Korea and Japan plan to hold their first-ever working level talks next month on the issue of Japan's sexual enslavement of Korean women as the neighbors begin efforts to resolve the long-standing source of diplomatic tensions. (Yonhap)