(From Yonhap)

The leaders of South Korea and Japan should demonstrate their willingness to resolve the issue of Tokyo’s wartime sex slavery when they hold a summit next week, a former Japanese premier said Thursday.

Tomiichi Murayama

Tomiichi Murayama made the remarks before President Park Geun-hye and her Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will hold their first summit in more than three years next Monday amid long-running diplomatic tension over Japan’s sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II.

“South Koreans are expecting the issue to be resolved. It is important for Japan to say that it has willingness to address it,” Murayama said in an interview. “South Korea should also make a channel for negotiations by accepting Japan’s intents.”

Murayama, who served as Japan’s prime minister from 1994 to 1996, was in Seoul to attend a one-day forum on global peace Thursday.

He said Abe’s statement issued in August was “too vague” compared with his (Murayama’s) 1995 statement stating Japan’s apology for its 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

Abe stopped short of a direct apology for his country’s wartime deeds.

The so-called Murayama Statement has been regarded as a key element of the basis of relations between Seoul and Tokyo, along with Japan’s 1993 landmark “Kono Statement” apologizing for its wartime sexual slavery.

“Abe needs to clarify whether he has sincerity in apologizing for Tokyo’s wartime acts,” Murayama said.

In the meantime, South Korean President Park Geun-hye is likely to press Japan to take “sincere steps” to address the issue.

The matter has gained urgency in recent years as the victims are dying off.

In 2007, more than 120 South Korean victims were alive, but the number has since dropped to 47, with their average age standing at nearly 90.

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