Japan won't revise wartime brothel apology: Spokesman

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga

TOKYO - Japan will neither revise a landmark 1993 apology to women, many Korean, who were forced to serve in wartime military brothels nor will it issue a new statement on the matter, Japan's top government spokesman said on Monday.

"(The government) will examine the statement, but we will not revise it," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters.

He also denied the possibility of a new government statement on "comfort women" as suggested by Koichi Hagiuda, a close aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, over the weekend.

Kyodo news agency and other Japanese media reported over the weekend that Hagiuda had suggested Japan could issue a new statement on comfort women if a review of the procedures that led to the government's apology uncovered new facts.

Earlier this month, Abe said that his government would not revise the apology, issued by then-chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono, which recognised the involvement of Japanese authorities in coercing the women to work in the military brothels - a point many conservative Japanese dispute.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye then expressed relief over Abe's remarks, and the two leaders are now set to join US President Barack Obama in a three-way summit on the sidelines of a nuclear summit in The Hague starting on Monday.

Washington has been pressing its allies Tokyo and Seoul to improve ties, strained by South Korea's bitter memories of Japan's 1910-1945 colonisation of the peninsula and a territorial row over tiny South Korea-controlled islands.

Japan has been sending confusing messages about the Kono Statement, saying it will review the circumstances behind the apology, but not revise the statement itself.