Park, Xi voice concern over Japan's moves to review history, collective self-defense

SEOUL, July 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping expressed concern Friday over Japan's recent moves seen as an attempt to whitewash its wartime atrocities and strengthen the role of its military, a senior presidential official in Seoul said.

The remarks came as Seoul and Beijing have been forging a united front against Japan's increasingly militaristic moves.

The two leaders had widely been expected to express their joint stance toward Tokyo following summit talks in Seoul on Thursday, but no such statement was made public.

The latest remarks came during a special luncheon hosted by Park on the second and final day of Xi's state visit to Seoul.

"(Park and Xi) agreed that it is worrying that Japan's attitude toward revising history continues as it even seeks to expand its right to self-defense," Ju Chul-ki, the senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs, said.

"The two leaders also agreed that it is regrettable that Japan appears to be attempting to damage and play down the Kono Statement in practice even though it has said it will inherit it."

Korea and China both suffered under brutal Japanese rule, with Korea being colonized by Japan from 1910 to 1945 and some parts of China being occupied by Japan in the early part of the 20th century.

Last month, Tokyo conducted a review of the Kono Statement, which acknowledges that women from Korea and other Asian nations were coerced into sexual servitude at Japanese military brothels during World War II.

The review claimed that the 1993 statement, named after then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, had been fine-tuned between Seoul and Tokyo, suggesting it was not based on historical facts.

On Tuesday, meanwhile, Tokyo adopted a new interpretation of its constitution to exercise the right to collective self-defense, empowering Japan to fight alongside an ally even if the country itself is not attacked.

Park also responded to Xi's offer to jointly hold memorial activities next year to mark the 70th anniversary of the Korean Peninsula's liberation from Japanese colonial rule as well as the end of World War II, saying South Korea also plans to hold "meaningful events," Ju said.

China's foreign ministry announced earlier in the day that Xi had made the offer during Thursday's summit.

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