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Japan shrugs off South Korean calls on 'comfort women'

TOKYO: The Japanese government on Monday shrugged off renewed calls from South Korean President Park Geun-Hye to apologise to former wartime sex slaves, saying Tokyo hoped Seoul would change its views.

“We have explained our position many times. We want to continue our diplomatic efforts so that our view will be understood,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.

The comment came in reaction to Park’s weekend call for Japan to resolve issues surrounding women being pressed into sexually serving Japanese troops during World War II.

Mainstream historians say up to 200,000 women, mainly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia and other Asian nations, were forced into sexual slavery during the war.

Tokyo has maintained that a 1965 treaty with Seoul, signed when the two nations normalised relations after the war, solved all outstanding issues and has rebuffed calls for separate compensation for so-called “comfort women”.

Japan has issued formal apologies over their suffering and offered financial compensation to victims via a non-government group, but Seoul maintains it is not contrite enough.

Bilateral ties have become further strained in recent months as Japanese nationalists have expanded campaigns to assert that the brothels were run by pimps and shadowy operators in the private sector, and that the Japanese military neither tricked nor enslaved the women.

Critics say Seoul uses the issue to galvanise public opinion and focus irritation on Japan, instead of whatever is happening at home.

Seoul-Tokyo ties have been icy for years, chiefly over differing interpretations of their shared history.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Park have not met for a formal two-way summit since they took power in 2012 and 2013 respectively, raising concerns over the partnership between the two main US military allies in Asia. -AFP

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