Japan not to review stance on "comfort women": gov't spokesman

Japan will not review its stance on the "comfort women" issue, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Tuesday, rejecting for now a move suggested by Shinzo Abe before he became prime minister.

Suga's remarks came amid criticism not only in Asia but also the United states of Tokyo's stance on Japan's wartime conduct, with former U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer saying last week that reviewing Japan's 1993 statement on the issue of sexual slavery would damage Japanese interests in the United States.

The statement, issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledged the Japanese military's responsibility for forced recruitment of women into sexual servitude and apologized to the victims.

Saying the Abe government does not wish to turn the controversy over the matter into a political or diplomatic issue, Suga told a news conference that Tokyo "has not said it would consider a review."

At a separate news conference, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said Abe shares the views expressed in a 1995 statement issued by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama that apologized for Japan's wartime aggression in Asia.

"At a certain period during the previous great war, Japan caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations," Kishida said.

"The Japanese government has accepted the facts of history in a spirit of humility, expressed once again our feelings of deep remorse and our heartfelt apology, and expressed our feelings of profound mourning for all victims, both at home and abroad, of the previous great war. And Prime Minister Abe shares the same view," he added.

Kishida said the Abe government intends to double its efforts to carefully explain its stance on history to the international community.

China and South Korea have sharply reacted to Abe's recent remarks on Japan's wartime aggression. Abe suggested last month that the definition of the word "invasion" varies from country to country, and that his Cabinet has not necessarily inherited the so-called Murayama statement in its entirety.