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South Korea criticizes Japan’s statement on comfort women

(Sankei: February 18, 2016 – p. 2)


 By Takahiro Namura in Seoul, Makiko Takita in Geneva


 In a session of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the Japanese delegation explained that “there were no documents backing up the claim that the Japanese military forcibly recruited comfort women.” In response, the South Korean Foreign Ministry told reporters from Sankei Shimbun and other media outlets: “Japan should refrain from making statements and taking actions that could undermine the spirit of the South Korea-Japan agreement (late last year).”


 The South Korean Foreign Ministry reiterated its previous position that “the coercive recruitment of comfort women is an undeniable historical fact clearly confirmed by the international community and proven by former comfort women. The Kono statement in 1993 clearly acknowledged the coercive recruitment of comfort women.”


 Furthermore, noting that the South Korean government has conveyed its position to Japan, the South Korean Foreign Ministry made the following demand: “We again urge the Japanese government to demonstrate by its words and deeds its position of restoring the honor and dignity of the victims and healing their wounds.”


 In response, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference on Feb. 17: “The comment was made in response to a question as a factual statement bearing in mind the bilateral agreement between Japan and South Korea reached late last year. That’s all.”


 In addition, referring to the possibility of Seoul reacting strongly, Suga emphasized: “It was a factual statement that does not constitute criticism of the South Korean government. It does not run counter the bilateral agreement.” He then stressed that “It is extremely important for the two governments to implement the agreement in good faith.”


 At the UN panel session held in Geneva on Feb. 16, Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama explained that there were no documents supporting the coercion of comfort women. He also explained the erroneous reports by the Asahi Shimbun on the forcible recruitment of comfort women and the Japan-South Korea agreement late last year.


 After the UN panel session, Sugiyama indicated that he will continue to convey Japan’s position to the international community, saying, “Japan needs to make efforts to clear up the misunderstanding.”


 Speaking of the comfort women issue, Sugiyama said: “The agreement between Japan and South Korea is extremely significant. There is no change in our position that we have endeavored to implement the agreement. I truly hope that the South Korean government has the same view.”


 Foreign Ministry Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura emphatically said at a press conference on Feb. 17: “We will sincerely provide detailed explanations to the international community.”

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