First, sorry for doubling up on an existing post before. I didn't read the previous Abe post when I put up my original.
Anyway, this issue has definitely been getting soem traction. I've been keeping an eye on media coverage of Abe's comments in the Japanese and Korean media these last few days and from what I've seen, it's been getting a bit more coverage in Japan, particularly in the Asahi Shimbun. Here are a few articles to peruse at your leisure:
Asahi Shimbun - Views of 'coercion' lead to backlash
Asahi Shimbun- Abe tacks right as vote looms
Yomiuri Shimbun- Abe: No apology over U.S. 'comfort women' resolution
Asia Times - Japan in a bind over North Korea
I think that the rather severe tone (however justified) of the Alexis Dudden article Prof. sent out yesterday made it easy to overlook the actual content of Abe's statement. Collectively the articles clarify that his primary objection to apologizing stems from a dispute on the definition of coercion. Abe, while admitting that "general coercion," or whatever that means, did take place, there is no evidence to prove that women were forcefully abducted from their homes and forced into prostitution. Initially, it appeared that this statement was issued in conjunction with plans to overturn or redefine the 1993 Kono apology. Abe's aides have hence confirmed however that Abe plans to stand by the apology, while not offering fresh one of his own. Intersting to note, the more conservative paper, Yomiuri, had nothing on this issue until the Abe Aide statement came out.
As others have already discussed, there are certainly political motivations, both domestic and foreign, for making such a statement and making it on March 1. The Asia Times article linked above discussed the political fallout of these remarks in Japan's dialogue with North Korea.
Now back to that little bundle of joy that is my first paper.