By: Kim Hyo-jin

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe should begin talks with South Korea to address the issue of Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of Korean women, a former Japanese prime minister said Thursday.

“Abe should make progress in resolving the sex slavery issue in response to President Park Geun-hye’s call and start talks with Seoul before it is too late,” Tomiichi Murayama said at a forum on global peace in Seoul. “If they engage in sincere negotiations, both countries could find a solution.”

The remarks came ahead of a summit between Park and Abe in Seoul, Sunday – the first summit talks between the leaders of the two countries in three and half years. Two leaders are expected to discuss the sex slavery issue during the summit.

“Park has strongly called on Tokyo to tackle the issue. But the row over the issue deterred the bilateral summit from being held for a long time and Seoul-Tokyo relations have also been frayed,” Murayama said. “Abe has a responsibility for making a breakthrough.”

He also called for Abe to normalize Japan-North Korea relations, saying “It will have a positive impact on relations between the two Koreas.”

He added that he has high expectations for the trilateral summit between Korea, China and Japan over the North Korean nuclear issue.

He said, “Three nations are required to lead North Korea to have normalized relations with neighboring countries to address the issue.”

The former prime minister made the so-called “Murayama Statement” in 1995 when he was in office and apologized for Japan’s wartime sexual enslavement of women.

He expressed “feeling of deep remorse” and offered a “heartfelt apology” over Japan’s wartime wrongdoing, calling it a “war of aggression.”

He criticized a statement made by Abe in which he did not repeat the words “apology” or “aggression” in his 70th anniversary of World War II statement in August.