Any revision to the landmark apology by then-Chief Cabinet
Secretary Yohei Kono would enrage Japan's neighbors, China and South
Korea, from where most of the "comfort women" were drawn. Both
accuse Japan of failing to atone fully for aggression before and
during World War Two.
The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which wants to bolster
the military and be less apologetic about the past, has said it will
set up a team to review the testimony of South Korean comfort women.
But officials have been careful to avoid any mention of revising or
watering down the apology.
Noriaki Nakayama, a lawmaker from the nationalist Japan Restoration
Party, which Abe's government looks to for support, dismissed any
notion of large-scale forced recruitment of women.
"The things Korea is saying ... that 200,000 were forcibly
recruited, are a complete and total lie," he told a cheering
gathering jamming a 500-seat hall near parliament.
Former air force chief of staff Toshio Tamogami, who resigned in
2008 for denying in an essay that Japan was the aggressor in the
war, said Japan had to "transmit its views more strongly".
"China and Korea are countries that, even if they lie, don't feel
pain in their hearts. But we Japanese do feel pain if we lie,"
Tamogami told the meeting, called to launch a petition to revise the
declaration to "protect Japan's honor".
The 1993 apology recognized the involvement of military authorities
in the brothel system and apologized for the women's suffering. It
was based in part on the testimony of 16 South Korean women, their
identities kept anonymous in line with a Japanese government pledge.
TERRITORIAL ROW, COLONIAL LEGACY
Japan's ties with South Korea have been frayed by a territorial row
over small islands and the legacy of its 1910-1945 colonization of
the Korean peninsula, including the question of compensation and an
apology to the comfort women.
[to top of second column]
South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Saturday urged Japan to stop
denying the past "and write a new history of truth and
reconciliation so that we can walk together towards cooperation,
peace and co-prosperity".
The plan to review the testimony of the 16 South Korean women, which
led, in part, to the apology, has drawn criticism within Japan as
Former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who in 1995 made an
apology for Japan having waged a war of aggression, last week said
there was no need to review the testimony as the military had set up
the brothels "out of operational necessities".
"As long as it is clear, I don't see why it is necessary to
investigate further to see what happened and what did not," he said.
During Abe's first time in office in 2006-2007, his government said
there was no proof that either the military or government officials
had kidnapped women. But it also said the position reflected the
position expressed by previous governments.
(Additional reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Ron Popeski)
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