Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be further alienated from his neighbors if Tokyo undermines the credibility of its 1993 apology over wartime sexual enslavement of women during World War II, China's state-run media warned Friday.
The China Daily made the comments in its editorial hours before the Japanese government was set to announce 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.
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."
"Abe is seeking to undercut the statement, which apologizes for Japan's wrongdoings and acknowledges the shame, without officially disavowing it," the editorial said.
Since early this week, Japanese newspapers have reported that Tokyo may partly conclude that the so-called Kono Statement was the outcome of mediation between South Korea and Japan.
Such a conclusion "would seriously undermine the credibility of the statement" because it would suggest that the statement was based on "some kind of political bargaining with the ROK (South Korea)," the editorial said.
"Abe should make a wise decision and not undermine the statement so as to avoid further alienating Japan from the rest of the countries in the region," it said.
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.
South Korea has pressed Japan to address long-running grievances by the victims of wartime sex slavery by extending a formal apology and compensating them. But Japan has refused to do so, saying the matter was settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries.
Time is running out for those aging victims in South Korea.
Only 54 victims remain alive in South Korea, and their average age is 88. (Yonhap)