The United States on Tuesday urged its allies Japan and South Korea to show restraint in their tense relations as an American senator faulted Tokyo on historical disputes.
Danny Russel, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, called on the two countries to look at the model of Japan and the United States, which have overcome the bitterness of World War II to nurture a close friendship.
“We continue to stress the need for prudence and restraint, for all parties to take steps that will promote healing,” Russel said of Japan and South Korea.
“All parties can contribute to a reversal of the current atmosphere and the creation of a positive trend,” he told a Senate subcommittee.
Echoing remarks of Secretary of State John Kerry on a visit last month to Seoul, Russel said Japan and North Korea shared common challenges including uncertainties over nuclear-armed North Korea.
While Russel said historical disputes cannot “be resolved by one party alone,” the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on East Asia, Ben Cardin, faulted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on historical disputes.
“The Japanese prime minister’s rhetoric on these issues is increasingly concerning to many,” said Cardin, a member of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party.
Cardin accused Abe of “provocative activities,” a likely reference to the Japanese leader’s December 26 pilgrimage to the Yasukuni shrine which honors 2.5 million war dead including convicted war criminals.
China and South Korea have accused Japan of showing insufficient remorse for atrocities in the 20th century. Abe is known for his conservative views on history and in the past has questioned whether imperial Japan directly coerced so-called “comfort women” into military brothels.
Japan in 1993 apologized to the women. Last week Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said that the government “would like to consider” setting up a verification team with academics to re-examine the accounts of 16 Korean women who testified ahead of the apology.
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, who has refused to meet Abe since she took office, said Saturday that Japan would face “isolation” if it revised the apology.
Respected historians say up to 200,000 women, mostly from Korea but also from China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan, were forced to serve as sex slaves in Japanese army brothels.
[Image via Agence France-Presse]