TOKYO (AP) — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday his government is not considering a revision of the country's 1993 apology for forcing South Korean and other women to have sex with Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Answering questions in parliament, Abe reiterated Friday what his government's top spokesman said earlier this week about the 1993 statement on the so-called comfort women system.
"The Abe cabinet has no intention to review it," he said.
Japan's Foreign Ministry said that it was the first time Abe clearly stated his position on the apology, known as the Kono statement after Yohei Kono, the government spokesman at the time who issued it.
The comment reflected Abe's willingness to improve relations with Seoul and pave the way for a possible meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye, ministry spokesman Masaru Sato said.
The issue has been one of biggest thorns between Japan and South Korea.
The government's intentions came into question after it said it would re-examine the accuracy of interviews conducted more than 20 years ago with former comfort women. The interviews formed key part of the basis for the apology.
Historians say tens of thousands of women served as sex slaves, called "comfort women" in Japan. Some Japanese nationalists have long insisted that women in wartime brothels were voluntary prostitutes, not sex slaves.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Monday that the government had no plans to change its official apology. But Suga said Friday that Japan still needs to look into how the 1993 investigation was carried out. He cited recent remarks by a retired Cabinet official who helped with the 1993 apology that the investigation had been conducted largely to accomodate the feelings of South Koreans rather than establish the facts.