Former Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama arrived in Seoul on Tuesday for a three-day visit and met with three South Korean women who were forced into sexual servitude during World War II later in the day.

“Japanese people had forcibly taken us to China. They should make an apology and provide compensation,” said Kang Il Chool, one of the three South Korean women.

In response, Murayama, 89, wished them good health and shook hands with them. The meeting took place at an exhibition hall at the National Assembly.

In 1995, while Murayama was prime minister, Japan issued an official statement apologizing for the suffering Japan inflicted on its Asian neighbors through colonization and wartime aggression. It is widely known as the Murayama statement.

At a dinner with senior members of the South Korean opposition Justice Party, Murayama said that previous prime ministers of Japan acknowledged the Murayama statement and no one can deny the statement, according to South Korean media, which have given extensive coverage on his trip.

Murayama’s trip to Seoul came amid heightened bilateral tension due to differing perceptions of history and a territorial dispute over South Korean-controlled islets in the Sea of Japan that are known as Dokdo in South Korea and Takeshima in Japan.

Murayama was invited to visit Seoul by the Justice Party.

The former prime minister and member of Japan’s small opposition Social Democratic Party will deliver a speech on Wednesday during a meeting hosted by a cross-party group of lawmakers in the National Assembly, the source said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has come under fire from South Korea and China for his conservative views on history. He suggested last year that the Murayama statement, which was issued on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II, be revised.

But Abe indicated later during a Diet committee session that his government upholds the statement.

By Kyodo News Agency