Japan spokesman nixes new sex slaves paper to replace Kono statement

Japan's top government spokesman rejected on Tuesday a request from a party colleague to issue a new document next year to replace a 1993 apology over women who were forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels, ruling lawmakers said.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga was quoted as telling Sanae Takaichi, head of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council and a House of Representatives lawmaker, that he is "not thinking of a new statement" to replace the so-called Kono statement, the lawmakers said.

The statement, named after then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, contained a landmark apology to the women known euphemistically in Japan as "comfort women."

Takaichi met Suga at the premier's office to ask him to issue a new statement in 2015 when Japan marks the 70th anniversary of its surrender in World War II.

The LDP policy chief also asked Suga to proactively disseminate at home and abroad new revelations regarding the comfort women issue such as a remark made earlier this year that the government did not verify the testimonies provided by former sex slaves, the lawmakers said.

She also noted the government's finding in June that Japan had coordinated with South Korea behind the scenes on the wording of the Kono statement.

Suga assured Takaichi that the government will take more steps to disseminate such points, the lawmakers said.

"The first thing is to have the opportunity to explain (the comfort women issue) to other countries including South Korea," Takaichi told reporters after meeting with Suga.

The government is considering issuing next year a new declaration by the prime minister based partly on a 1995 statement, issued by then Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, apologizing for the wartime suffering inflicted by Japan on its Asian neighbors.

The government, however, has said it will uphold the Kono statement. Ties between Japan and South Korea remain frayed due partly to the issue of wartime sex slavery.