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Japan's foreign minister expresses displeasure over U.S. resolution on WWII sex slaves
The Associated Press
Monday, February 19, 2007
Foreign Minister Taro Aso expressed displeasure Monday over a proposed U.S. congressional resolution seeking Tokyo's apology for the Japanese army's practice of forcing women to serve as sex slaves during World War II.
The resolution, sponsored by several members of the U.S. House of Representatives, calls for Japan's prime minister to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility" for using "comfort women" — a Japanese euphemism for thousands of women forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
Aso, speaking at a parliamentary committee meeting, called the nonbinding resolution, which was introduced earlier this month, "extremely regrettable."
"It was not based on objective facts," Aso said, without elaborating.
Three women who say they endured rape and torture at the hands of Japanese soldiers during World War II and a lifetime of mental and physical scars testified last week in written statements at a hearing of the House subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment.
The proposed resolution does not seek Japanese reparations, but demands that Japan formally reject revisionists who say sexual enslavement never happened and educate children about the comfort women's experience. It was unclear when the House subcommittee would meet again to consider whether to endorse the resolution.
Historians say that Japan forced about 200,000 women, mostly from conquered Asian nations such as Korea and China, into sexual servitude. While Japan acknowledged in the 1990s that its military set up and ran brothels for its troops, it has rejected most compensation claims, saying they were settled by postwar treaties.
The Asian Women's Fund, created in 1995 by the Japanese government but independently run and funded by private donations, was founded as a way for Japan to compensate former sex slaves without offering official government reparations. Many comfort women have rejected the fund, seeking formal government compensation.
Japanese leaders have repeatedly apologized, including former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who said in 2001 that he felt sincere remorse over the comfort women's "immeasurable and painful experiences."
But supporters of the resolution want an apology similar to the one the U.S. government gave to Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during World War II. That apology was approved by Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1988.
In a letter sent to the congressional panel, Japan's ambassador to the United States, Ryozo Kato, said his country has recognized its responsibility and acknowledged its actions.
"While not forgetting the past, we wish to move forward," Kato wrote.