Japan PM Reaches out to South Korea with Apology
Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologised on Tuesday for suffering under Japan's colonisation of the Korean peninsula, despite criticism from lawmakers that the gesture would lead to renewed calls for wartime compensation.

Seeking to build on improving ties with South Korea, Kan adopted language from a former Socialist premier and said he wanted to be sincere in confronting history.

"It is easy for the side that inflicted the pain to forget, while those who suffered that pain cannot easily forget," Kan said in a statement to mark the centenary of Japan's annexation of the Korean peninsula later this month.

"I express a renewed feeling of deep remorse and state my heartfelt apology for the tremendous damage and suffering caused by colonial rule."

The words of apology were in line with a landmark 1995 statement to Asian countries by then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama, a Socialist, to mark the 50th anniversary of the end of World War Two.

Lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties have worried that such an apology from Kan could lead to more compensation claims from wartime victims, although a senior ruling Democratic Party official has said it would not.

Kan is seeking to keep periodically fraught ties with South Korea on track, avoiding rows centred on Japan's often-brutal 1910-1945 colonisation of the peninsula that could get in the way of growing economic links.

Tokyo's relations with Seoul chilled during former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's 2001-2006 tenure when he repeatedly visited the Yasukuni Shrine, seen by Japan's neighbours as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

But ties between Asia's biggest and fourth-biggest economies have improved in recent years. South Korea was Japan's third-largest export market in 2009 and the two sides have worked together to battle the global financial crisis.

They are also showing a united front on nuclear-armed North Korea. Tokyo has backed Seoul's tough stance towards North Korea following the sinking in March of a naval ship blamed by the South on Pyongyang.

Kan said in the statement he wanted to return some Korean artifacts to South Korea and vowed to further deepen ties.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak welcomed the statement in a telephone call with Kan, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku told a news conference.

Japan has also postponed the release of its annual defence report over what media reported was a desire to avoid upsetting South Korea ahead of the centenary on Aug. 29.

Japanese media said the delay was prompted by concerns that the report could heighten anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea by asserting Tokyo's claim to a group of rocky islets over which Seoul also says it has sovereignty.

Source: bdnews24.com

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