Ex-PM Murayama says no need to re-examine 1993 statement on sex slavery

TOKYO — Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama said Feb. 27 it is not necessary to re-examine a 1993 statement on wartime sex slavery in the wake of recent moves by the current government to do so.

“There is no meaning in finding fault in or scrutinizing the statement any further,” Murayama, who was Japan’s socialist prime minister from 1994 to 1996, said at a press conference in Tokyo, questioning whether the country will benefit from such actions.

The statement, issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono under the administration of Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa of the Liberal Democratic Party, acknowledged the Japanese military’s responsibility over the forced recruitment of women into sexual servitude and apologized to the victims who are euphemistically known as “comfort women” in Japan.

Murayama said at the Japan National Press Club that the so-called Kono statement was composed after much thought and investigation, and that it was “unmistakable that the military created comfort stations.”

His remarks come after Japan’s current Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated recently during a Diet committee session that Japan will set up a task force to re-examine the testimony of former sex slaves, which was used as a basis for the statement.

Nobuo Ishihara, who served as Kono’s deputy, said during a parliamentary session recently that the government at the time did not verify the testimonies provided by the sex slaves.

Murayama, who is best known for issuing a 1995 statement apologizing for the wartime suffering inflicted by Japan on its Asian neighbors, also said he had told South Korean lawmakers during his recent trip to the country that he “trusts” current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to uphold the 1995 statement.

“It would be impossible to negate the statement because the country’s prime ministers have all upheld it and it has become an international pledge,” he said.

Abe has said his Cabinet “takes the position of carrying on” the so-called Murayama statement, although it does not adopt the statement in its entirety, sparking concern in neighboring countries such as South Korea that the statement may be reviewed.

Compensating the wartime sex slaves has also been a thorny issue between Japan and South Korea despite the creation in 1995 of a government-initiated fund, the Asian Women’s Fund, while Murayama was in office.

The fund, which disbanded in 2007, was designed to provide 2 million yen each in atonement money to South Korean and other former sex slaves, but some of the women have rejected the money because they want state compensation.

The Japanese government has taken the position that all wartime compensation issues between Japan and South Korea were settled under a 1965 bilateral agreement.

Revealing for the first time the exact number of beneficiaries, the fund’s former executive director Haruki Wada told Kyodo News on Feb. 27 that only about 30 percent of former South Korean wartime sex slaves have received atonement money from the fund.

Murayama said he sees dialogue between the Japanese and South Korean governments as the key to finding a solution to settle the compensation issue.

Given the difficulty of arranging a meeting between the countries’ top leaders amid heightened bilateral tensions due to a territorial dispute and differing perceptions of history, Murayama suggested the countries should first “start with working-level discussions.”

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