Abe, Park hold phone talks over comfort women deals

Updated: 2015-12-29 09:32


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TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Park Geun-hye on Monday held telephone talks after the two countries' foreign ministers reached an agreement earlier in the day in Seoul on resolving the lingering "comfort women" issue.

During the phone talks, Abe reiterated that the newly reached deals were "final and irreversible" and he expressed apology and remorse to the South Koreans who once served as "comfort women," a Japanese euphemism for over 200,000 women forcibly recruited by then Japanese Imperial army to work as sex slavers in wartime military brothels.

According to the agreement, the Japanese government acknowledges the involvement of the military in the issue and feels responsibility therefore, and the two sides will set up a new fund financed around 1 billion yen (about $8.30 million) by Tokyo to support the victims.

Meanwhile, the South Korean side will make efforts to address Japan's concerns over the statue in front of the Japanese Embassy in Seoul of a girl symbolizing the comfort women, Japan's Kyodo News cited the agreement as reporting.

Both countries also agreed that they will refrain from accusing each other on the issue in the international opportunity.

For her part, Park told Abe that she expected the agreement could serve as an opportunity to help develop bilateral relations in a stable and more future-oriented manner, Kyodo quoted a senior government official as saying.

Bilateral ties between Japan and South Korea have been restrained for a long time due to historical issues not only including the "comfort women" issue, but also the forced labor issue.

The agreement came at a time when Abe is eyeing to improve his cabinet's support rate ahead of an upper house election in next summer and when Washington pressed Tokyo to mend ties with Seoul so as to enhance US alliance with the two countries.

In 1993, then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issues a landmark statement over the issue by offering an apology to the former comfort women. But the Abe's administration formed since late 2012 tried to review and revise the world-recognized Kono Statement and is reluctant to acknowledge the Japanese government's responsibilities over the issue.

In his statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II released on Aug. 14, Abe neither directly mentioned the comfort women issue nor admitted Japan was the culprit of the wartime atrocity.

Abe and Park agreed during their first meeting on Nov. 2 to accelerate their negotiations for addressing the issue.