SEOUL - A statement by a top US official that Japan, China and South Korea all bear responsibility for historical issues has created a major stir in South Korea.
South Korea, which is eager to gain the support of the United States in a dispute with Japan, was shocked by the comment, which could indicate that the United States is not necessarily on its side all the time.
In a speech in Washington on Friday, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman said: "Of course, nationalist feelings can still be exploited, and it's not hard for a political leader anywhere to earn cheap applause by vilifying a former enemy. But such provocations produce paralysis, not progress."
Referring to such examples as heightened tensions between Japan and China over the Senkaku Islands, and that South Korea and China have criticised Japan over so-called comfort women, she also said, "All this is understandable, but it can also be frustrating."
The South Korean media comprehensively covered the statement on Monday, with the typical comment: "[U.S:] No winners but only losers in fight." The Munhwa Ilbo, a daily newspaper, said, "Fears are spreading that the United States has begun to side with Japan."
"We'll deal closely with the problem," South Korea's First Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae Yong said in the National Assembly on Monday.
Cho expressed hope of receiving a response from the United States in a day or two, implying that the ministry had asked for clarification of Sherman's statement.
US President Barack Obama, who visited South Korea in April last year, has said that comfort women deserve to be heard and respected.