SEOUL, March 15 -- South Korean President Park Geun- hye on Saturday welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's confirmation that his cabinet will not revise the 1993 official apology for wartime sex slavery.
"It is relieved that Prime Minister Abe announced his position to inherit the Murayama and Kono statements now," presidential spokesman Min Kyung-wook told reporters, quoting Park as saying.
Park hoped Abe's confirmation would alleviate suffering of former comfort women and become a cornerstone to shore up relations between South Korea and Japan.
Her comments came a day after Abe told a Diet session that his cabinet will not revise Japan's apology for coercing women into sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War Two.
It marked the first time that the right-wing Abe clarified his attitude toward the 1993 statement by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono which acknowledged the fact that Japanese army had forced more than 200,000 young women, mostly Koreans, into sex slavery.
Abe also said he followed Japan's apology made in 1995 by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama to countries that suffered from Japan's colonial rule and brutal aggression.
Abe's ambiguity on the two statements was blamed for strained relations with neighboring China and South Korea.
Japanese vice foreign minister Akitaka Saiki held the first vice ministerial-level talks in about eight months with his South Korean counterpart Cho Tae-yong in Seoul on Wednesday, but it ended in vain as Japan stuck to its previous stance.
The change in Abe's stance was believed to result from pressure of the United States, which expressed concerns over Abe's attitude toward history.
President Park has refused to meet with Abe since she took power in February last year, citing his wrong perception of history and no repentance for past colonial rule.
Ties between Seoul and Tokyo have been strained since Abe returned to power in December 2012 over historical issue and territorial dispute.
Abe infuriated Asian neighbors by visiting the notorious Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013.
The shrine, which honors 14 convicted class-A war criminals in World War Two, has been viewed as a symbol of Japanese militarism in the 20th century.