An editorial published on the website of New York Times has urged Japan not to try to rewrite its past by releasing a report on World War II sex slaves.
"Mr. (Prime Minister Shinzo) Abe has done an injustice to the victims of this wartime crime and hurt his country by pandering to a narrow nationalist political fringe in ordering up the report in the first place," said the editorial entitled "Japan's historical blinders -- Apology for World War II sex slaves is again at issue."
Last Friday, the Japanese government submitted a report on reviewing the 1993 Kono Statement on "comfort women," who were forced into sex slaves by the Japanese army during World War II, to parliament, amid concerns that it may trigger question on the world-recognized apology to the victims.
"For South Koreans the report - by revealing the consultations between the two governments when the 1993 statement was being drafted - shows that Japan has never been sincere about the apology," the editorial said.
A panel of experts chosen by the Japanese government had compiled the report since the Abe administration said in February it would launch a team to re-examine the background as to how the statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono was made.
According to the panel, Japan and South Korea coordinated on the wording of the landmark apology, and at the request of Seoul, Tokyo stipulated coercion was involved in recruiting "comfort women," reported Japan's Kyodo News.
The Japanese government at that time did not examine whether the South Korean women interviewed told the truth, and a draft statement was made even before Tokyo finished all planned interviews, Kyodo quoted the panel as saying.
But there are concerns that the conclusion may trigger question from the Japanese society, especially from rightists, over the reliability of the official apology to the wartime military sex slavery victims.
"Japanese nationalists will undoubtedly use the report to push the government to retract the apology," the NYTimes editorial said.
"It's time Mr. Abe made it clear to his country and to the world that the 'deniers' are wrong. His continued willingness to play to that (nationalist) political fringe is interfering with Japan's ability to carry on its leading role in the region," it said.
In the 1993 statement, Kono acknowledged that the Japanese government and its Imperial Army were involved in the recruitment of between 200,000 and 400,000 women and forced them to serve in military brothels.
According to historians, women from the Korean Peninsula, China, Indonesia and the Philippines were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese forces during WWII.
Although the Japanese government has said it does not intend to revise the Kono Statement, the report has raised deep concerns among its neighbors.
South Korea on Friday criticized the report and voiced "deep regret" over the Japanese government's move.
The report is a "contradictory and pointless act" by the Abe administration, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement, adding parts of the review distort the facts of the case and undermine the credibility of the statement.
China has also urged Japan to properly deal with the issue of wartime sex slavery with concrete actions and a responsible attitude, and to keep its commitment to the international community made in the Kono Statement.
"The so-called review exposes Japan's reluctance to face up to history and attempts to play down the war crimes," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a Monday news briefing.
The NYTimes editorial also said it is an "especially awkward" time for Japan to leave any doubts about the issue of its wartime sex slaves, which has aroused global attention.
"There has been increasing and proper attention focused by the international community on sexual violence in armed conflict; governments and human rights groups have demanded that offenders be prosecuted and victims cared for," it said.
"As a democracy and the world's third-largest economy, Japan cannot be seen as trying to rewrite its past," the editorial concluded.