Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Japan will uphold a landmark apology issued to the victims of its wartime sexual enslavement.
Speaking at a session of the House of Councillors' Budget Committee on Friday, Abe said the Kono Statement contains Tokyo's historic perception on the so-called "comfort women" issue.
He added his administration has no plans to revise it, as declared earlier by his Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga.
The Kono Statement -- released in the name of then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993 -- acknowledges and apologizes for Japan's forced sexual enslavement of roughly 200-thousand women during the Second World War.
The Japanese government had declared earlier this month that it would probe the accuracy of testimonies provided by Korean comfort women, which established the basis of the statement.
The move had raised speculations Japan was attempting to backtrack on its apology.
Abe, who has long called for a review, seemed to take a step back Friday, saying historical perceptions should not become a diplomatic issue and said history studies should be left in the hands of experts.
In Japan, more than 13-hundred Japanese historians have signed a petition, calling on their government to preserve the Kono Statement as it is.
Abe faced criticism both at home and abroad for denying his country's wartime crimes.
The United States has been calling on Japan to mend ties with South Korea, indicating he may have been pressured to show a change in position.
But while the Japanese leader may appear to have eased his right-wing stance, his comments come just a day after his top government spokesman said there was no evidence of Japan's forced recruitment of women.
Hwang Sung-hee, Arirang News.