SEOUL/BEIJING - South Korea and China rejected Thursday remarks by a senior Japanese official that the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may review a 1993 statement on women forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II.
Cho Tai Young, a spokesman for South Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, said the issue of the "comfort women" is "a clear historical fact and has inflicted enormous sufferings on the victims," and reiterated calls on Japan to settle it.
"The Japanese government should never forget the historical fact and unspeakable sufferings inflicted on the victims in seeking a solution satisfactory to them in accordance with their wishes," Cho told a press briefing in Seoul.
In Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying expressed similar views.
"The issue is a heinous crime committed by Japanese militarism during World War II against people in countries in Asia, including those in China," Hua said at a press conference. "We hope the Japanese side will handle this issue seriously and properly."
Earlier Thursday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga failed to rule out reviewing the 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that acknowledged the forced recruitment of women by the Imperial Japanese Army into sexual slavery and apologized to the victims.
Suga said it is "desirable for experts and historians to study" the Kono statement, without making it a political or diplomatic issue.
Suga did not say if the Abe Cabinet, launched Wednesday, will uphold the statement.