U.S. applauds Japan-South Korea agreement on wartime ''comfort women.'' Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION). STORY: The United States on Monday (December 28) congratulated South Korea and Japan for reaching a landmark agreement to resolve the issue of "comfort women," as those who were forced to work in Japan's wartime brothels were euphemistically known, which has long plagued ties between the neighbors. "We welcome today's announcement by the governments of Japan and the Republic of Korea that they have reached an agreement regarding the very sensitive historical legacy issue of so-called comfort women. The two governments made clear that by implementing this agreement they will, quote, 'finally and irreversibly' end quote, resolve this issue between the two governments. And we believe this agreement will promote healing and help improve relations between two of the United States' most important allies," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. The United States has been keen for improved relations between its two major Asian allies in the face of an increasingly assertive China and an unpredictable North Korea. Strains between Tokyo and Seoul have prevented the two countries from signing an agreement to share sensitive military information, so a year ago they signed a three-way pact under which Seoul routes its information to the United States which then passes it on to Japan, and vice versa. Toner said it was up to the two governments to hammer out details of the agreement and promote it to their citizens. "I'm aware, as we all are, that there are continued grievances: people who feel aggrieved even with this agreement. That's really for the government of South Korea, working with its own citizens and those affected by by these events, to work with them to address their concerns, including the actual victims in these negotiations or discussions," Toner said. South Korean President Park Geun-hye and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to take the opportunity to boost bilateral ties soon after the agreement by the foreign ministers. Park "hoped that since the two governments worked through a difficult process to reach this agreement, they can cooperate closely to start building trust and open a new relationship," her office quoted her as saying to Abe. Abe told reporters in Tokyo that Japan has apologized and expressed its remorse, but added future Japanese generations should not have to keep on doing so. Japan was "painfully aware of its responsibilities" for the affront to the women's honor and dignity, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told a news conference in Seoul with his South Korean counterpart. "You know it's incumbent on the government of Japan to to sell this agreement or to convince the Japanese people that this agreement is in the best interests of Japan," Toner said. Japan will draw on its government budget to contribute about one billion yen ($8.3 million) to a fund that will help the former "comfort women", and work with South Korea to run a program to restore their honor and dignity, Kishida said. Scholars continue to debate the number of women exploited. Activists in South Korea say there may have been as many as 200,000 Korean victims, only a few of whom came forward. Only 46 survivors remain of the 238 women in South Korea who came forward, and their average age is 89.