by Jon Day
TOKYO, June 20 (Xinhua) -- The Japanese government on Friday presented its findings to parliament on a review of how its landmark 1993 apology for the forcible conscription of women into sexual slavery by its military during the World War II (W.W.II), known as the Kono Statement, was compiled.
According to a panel of so-called experts hand-picked by the government to review the compilation of facts that formed the basis of an historic statement issued in 1993 by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, apologizing for the coercion of women into sexual slavery at Japanese military brothels during W.W. II, was a joint effort between Japan and South Korea.
The panel concluded that Seoul had requested that Tokyo use the term "coercion" in its apology for the forcible conscription of "comfort women" -- a euphemism used to describe sex slaves in times of war.
The panel went on to say that the testimonies given by 16 South Korean women who were forced to work in military brothels, following being interviewed by the government at the time, were not examined for their factual accuracy and said that a draft statement was compiled before Tokyo had finished all its research into the comfort women atrocity.
In essence, the panel has suggested that the findings were inaccurate, if not fallacious, and the final statement itself unsubstantiated, in a move that quickly drew the ire of the South Korean Foreign Ministry who blasted the Japanese government saying its action were "deeply regrettable" and a "contradictory and pointless act."
In a further move viewed as somewhat inexplicable by observers here, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a press conference that having looked into the facts available when the Kono Statement was drafted, the evaluation of "history" including the comfort women issue, should be left up to intellectuals and experts.
Suga went on to say that Japan will continue to uphold the statement and not seek to revise it or change the government's official stance and hopes to see ties with South Korea improve.
But observers have been quick to point out that the panel's findings delivered in parliament Friday, if taken at face value, render the Kono Statement futile if not defunct, and the government's reinterpretation of its own historical findings now not merely white wash over history, but are an abhorrent distortion of the truth.
The Kono Statement, which was issued according to the Japanese government's own objective studies, concluded that women were recruited to work in brothels against their will through "coaxing and coercion" and they were forced to "live in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere."
The statement adds that the "undeniable" act of the military authorities of the day, "severely injured the honor and dignity of many women" and goes on to apologize for all those "who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women."
To intimate that the compiling of this statement was done in cahoots with South Korea, with the actual wording used at Seoul's discretion, is as insulting as it is absurd, observers said.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, who served as the nation's leader between 1994 to 1996, said in February that his landmark 1995 apology for the nation's wartime atrocities and the Kono Statement admitting culpability and apologizing for Japan' s forcible wartime conscription of sex slaves should not be reexamined.
The government has flip-flopped over whether or not any revisions should be made to the Kono Statement, while trying to respect the confidence in which the original statements were given. However, while the government has not officially revised or retracted the statement, it has irrevocably demeaned it and played perfectly into the hands of a growing number of conservative lawmakers who are also seeking to discredit the official apology, by saying there is a lack of wartime evidence to support the statement.
But leading historians agree that the historical facts are incontrovertible, despite recent remarks by nationalist politicians here, and the evidence and testimony given to the Japanese government by the 16 Korean women who testified to Japan' s complicity, coercion and culpability for wartime sexual slavery, were utterly sound.
"It would be impossible to negate the statements because the country's prime ministers have all upheld them and they have become an international pledge," Murayama has been quoted as saying.
Japan undermining the authenticity of the Kono Statement and with Abe's plans to issue a fresh statement marking the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II next year to replace the 1995 Murayama Statement apologizing for the nation's wartime atrocities -- which has been adopted by all prime ministers since the official apology was issued, but deemed inaccurate by Abe -- will only serve to ensure that in the eyes of the international community, Japan, brazenly, continues to refuse to squarely face up to its history.
In doing so, Japan is singlehandedly ensuring the gulf of mistrust will continue to rapidly widen between itself and its closest neighbors.