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Congress to hear WW2 sex slaves' testimony
Thu Feb 8, 2007 10:28 PM ET
By Paul Eckert, Asia Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three women who were forced into sexual servitude by Japanese soldiers in World War Two will testify before a U.S. congressional committee next week, the author of a resolution calling on Tokyo to apologize for the practice said on Thursday.
Rep. Michael Honda, a California Democrat who introduced the nonbinding measure on February 1, told reporters he was confident the resolution would pass by the end of March.
"There are parties who are going to be lobbying against the resolution also, but on the whole we're enjoying bipartisan support," said Honda, one of a handful of U.S. lawmakers of Japanese descent.
Honda's resolution calls on the government of Japan to "formally and unambiguously apologize for and acknowledge the tragedy that comfort women endured at the hands of its Imperial Army during World War Two."
"Comfort women" is a Japanese euphemism for the estimated 200,000 women forced to provide sex for Japan's soldiers at battle-zone brothels during World War Two.
Honda said the first step toward passage would be the hearing at the Asia-Pacific subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on February 15.
Witnesses would include experts on the issue and three former comfort women: Koreans Lee Yong-soo and Kim Koon-ja and Jan Ruff O'Herne, a Dutch-born woman who now lives in Australia, said Honda's office.
Asked about the timing of debate that could become an irritant in U.S.-Japan relations ahead of an expected spring visit to Washington by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Honda said that time was running out for the elderly women.
"The urgency is based upon the age of the women who were victims of the policy. Every year these ladies get older and older and they start to die off," he said in a conference call with reporters in Washington.
Japan in 1993 acknowledged a state role in the wartime program and Japanese leaders since 1996 have sent letters of apology to 285 of the women, along with donated funds collected by the government-administered Asian Women's Fund.
U.S. lawmakers introduce resolution urging Japan apology to World War II 'comfort women'
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 8, 2007
U.S. lawmakers have introduced a nonbinding resolution demanding that Japan apologize to thousands of so-called comfort women the Japanese army used as sex slaves during World War II.
The resolution, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Michael Honda, Republican Rep. Christopher Smith and others, calls for Japan's prime minister to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the women's ordeal.
A similar resolution asking for an apology for as many as 200,000 women forced to service millions of Japanese soldiers during the war was passed last year by the House of Representatives foreign affairs panel. The Republicans who then controlled Congress never brought it before the House for action.
The Japanese Embassy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Tokyo acknowledged in the 1990s that its military set up and ran brothels for its troops. But Japan has rejected most compensation claims, saying they were settled by postwar treaties.
In an interview Thursday, Honda acknowledged that Japan is "very sensitive" to the issue and that Japanese lobbyists in Washington have urged the resolution be dropped, saying it would be bad for U.S.-Japanese relations.
"I'm sure there will be resistance," Honda said. But, he added, "It's a necessary move that the Japanese have to take."
Honda called the resolution "a matter of fundamental justice. These brave women's wounds have been left to fester for over a half-century."
Next week, three comfort women are scheduled to appear at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Asia.
The current resolution does not recommend that Japan pay reparations to the women. Instead, it urges Japan to accept moral responsibility for the women's misery with an official apology, to refute those who say the sexual enslavement never happened and to educate children about the comfort women's experience.