TOKYO - Japan got input from South Korea on the sensitive wording of a landmark apology in 1993 to women, many Korean, who worked in Japan's wartime military brothels, an expert panel said after reviewing evidence that led to the statement.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihida Suga, commenting on the report, repeated that Japan would not revise the statement on the "comfort women", as they are euphemistically known in Japan.
"It is still very painful to think of the sufferings that the women endured and there is no change in the government's stance on that," Mr Suga told a news conference.
The topic of "comfort women" has long been a thorn in Japan's ties with South Korea, which says Japan as not sufficiently atoned for the women's suffering.
The 1993 "Kono Statement", named after then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in whose name it was issued, acknowledged Japanese authorities' involvement in coercing the women to work in the brothels.
Many Japanese conservatives, however, say there is no proof of authorities' involvement - a stance adopted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's first 2006-2007 administration - and that other countries also sexually exploited women during wartime.
Mr Abe has questioned the Kono Statement in the past and in what many saw as a nod to his conservative base, the government asked five experts to review it. But mindful of potential diplomatic fallout, Mr Abe has also said he would not revise it.
Relations between Japan and South Korea have grown frosty in recent years, frayed by a territorial row over a disputed island and by the legacy of Japan's 1910-1945 colonisation of the Korean peninsula.