Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said yesterday his government would not, after all, revise a landmark 1993 apology for wartime sexual slavery, and said he was "deeply pained" by the suffering of women drawn into military brothels during the second world war.
Abe has faced criticism for his government's plan to review what is known as the Kono statement, which acknowledged official complicity in the coercion of military sex slaves.
Respected historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, were forced to serve Japanese soldiers. They are sometimes called "comfort women".
Abe said his cabinet "upholds the position on the recognition of history outlined by the previous administrations in its entirety", including the Kono statement.
"With regard to the comfort women issue, I am deeply pained to think of the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering, a feeling I share equally with my predecessors," he told a parliamentary committee.