There's just too much information on this story for me to handle at the moment:
Abe's approval rating falls to 37 percent
Japan Probe digs up some of Abe's previous statements
Trans-Pacific Radio podcast
Lee Yong-soo's statement at the US House of Representatives, Hearing on Protecting the Human Rights of Comfort Women - Thursday, February 15, 2007.
Honestly, there's more wordplay going on here than in the Clinton Impeachment. First Shinzo Abe rejected the 1993 Kono Statement, made by Yohei Kono. This statement apologized for Japanese involvement in forcing women, mostly Chinese and Korean, into sexual servitude during World War II; following negative reactions from the international and domestic community (particularly in Korea), he tried to soften his response by arguing over his use of the word "coerce":
"The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion."
Eventually, Abe retracted this position in response to international pressure. However, he denied that the government (or rather, he) should issue a fresh apology.
The Kono Statement
"The Government of Japan has been conducting a study on the issue of wartime "comfort women" since December 1991. I wish to announce the findings as a result of that study.
"As a result of the study which indicates that comfort stations were operated in extensive areas for long periods, it is apparent that there existed a great number of comfort women. Comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day. The then Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women. The recruitment of the comfort women was conducted mainly by private recruiters who acted in response to the request of the military. The government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere.
"As to the origin of those comfort women who were transferred to the war areas, excluding those from Japan, those from the Korean Peninsula accounted for a large part. The Korean Peninsula was under Japanese rule in those days, and their recruitment, transfer, control, etc. were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion etc.
"Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities of the day, that severely injured the honor and dignity of many women. The Government of Japan would like to take this opportunity once again to extend its sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women.
"It is incumbent upon us, the Government of Japan, to continue to consider seriously, while listening to the views of learned circles, how best we can express this sentiment.
"We shall face squarely the historical facts as described above instead of evading them, and take them to heart as lessons of history. We hereby reiterated our firm determination never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history.
"As actions have been brought to court in Japan and interests have been shown in this issue outside Japan, the Government of Japan shall continue to pay full attention to this matter, including private research related thereto."
Honestly, there have been so many gaffes coming from prominent politicians in Japan it's almost laughable. Case in point:
1. What prompted Abe to deny such events happened in the first place? Pressure from right-wingers? I don't see the benefit.
2. Education Minister Ibuki Bunmei's "butter" remark:
"Japan has stressed the individual point of view too much. If you eat butter everyday you get metabolic syndrome. Human rights are important but a society that over indulges in them will get ‘human rights metabolic syndrome.'”