by Xinhua Writer Sun Ding
BEIJING, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- As Japan and South Korea agreed to settle the long-standing "comfort women" issue between the two sides, more sincerity and actions are needed from Tokyo to better resolve the sensitive historical matter.
On Monday, Japan offered an apology and a 1-billion-yen (about 8.3-million-U.S.-dollar) payment to Korean women forced to work as sex slaves during World War II.
For the two neighbors, the agreement marked a turning point in bilateral ties, which had been plagued for years by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's notorious historical revisionism featuring attempts to deny Japan's wartime atrocities, including forcing Asian women in occupied territories into sexual slavery.
For the whole East Asian region, this marks significant progress for its members in resolving historical issues, and the improvement of ties between two of the leading regional economies will help solidify the bedrock for Asia's stability and development.
However, before heralding "a new era" with Seoul, Tokyo has to be reminded that South Korean women were not the only victims of its heinous acts and a single agreement with only one country is far from addressing the "comfort women" issue as a whole.
Historians estimate there were about 200,000 "comfort women" forced to serve in Japanese military brothels during wartime. Except those from the Korean Peninsula, many of those unfortunate women came from China and other Southeast Asian countries.
Last month, Zhang Xiantu, China's last surviving "comfort woman" who had sued over the wartime crimes resulting from Japanese militarism, died at the age of 89, without receiving any apology or compensation from Japan.
If Japan were truly sincere in its remorse and apologies regarding the issue of "comfort women," it would have apologized to and compensated its victims regardless of their nationalities instead of letting them pass away one by one with unresolved grievances.
It is also a pity that Japan's settlement with South Korea over the contentious issue is more of a political choice made under pressure from the United States rather than a decision from an awakened conscience.
Out of consideration for its so-called "rebalance to the Asia-Pacific" strategy and the security landscape in East Asia, Washington has kept up pressure on Tokyo and Seoul, two of its key military allies in Asia, for their reconciliation on disputes, while urging the Abe administration to compromise over historical issues in particular.
The latest Nikkei poll has shown that 57 percent of its respondents said Japan need not make concessions relating to wartime "comfort women," far more than the 24 percent who argued for giving ground. The results reflect the public's rightist tendency, a likely barrier that would prevent Japan and its neighbors from reaching historical reconciliation.
To move in the same direction with neighboring countries over historical issues including the "comfort women," more sincerity is needed from Japan to face history squarely, reflect upon its past aggressions and deal with related issues in a responsible way.