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Japan won't apologize again for WW2 sex slaves: PM
Sun Mar 4, 2007 11:20 PM ET
TOKYO (Reuters) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday Japan will not apologize again for forcing women to act as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers in World War 2 even if a U.S. House of Representatives resolution demanding an apology is adopted.
But Abe said he stood by a 1993 Japanese government apology that acknowledged that the military played a role in setting up and managing wartime brothels and that coercion was used.
"I have to say that even if the resolution passes, that doesn't mean we will apologize," Abe told a parliamentary panel, reiterating the government stance that the U.S. resolution contains factual errors.
Abe has said since becoming prime minister last September that he stands by the 1993 apology, a statement he repeated on Monday. This has disappointed many of his conservative supporters who shared his past criticism of the statement.
But last week, Abe sparked a fierce reaction from South Korea when he appeared to question the degree to which physical coercion was involved in recruiting the women for the brothels.
"There is no evidence to back up that there was coercion as defined initially," he told reporters on Thursday, apparently referring to accusations that the Imperial Army had kidnapped women and put them in brothels to serve soldiers.
On Monday, he said there seemed to have been some apparent cases of coercion, such as by middlemen, but added: "It was not as though military police broke into peoples' homes and took them away like kidnappers."
On Saturday, South Korea's foreign ministry issued a statement saying Abe's denial of coercion was regrettable and cast doubt on the sincerity of Japan's previous apology.
Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said on Monday that the government stood firmly by the 1993 apology.
"Looking at the various media coverage and comments, I believe they were not based on an appropriate interpretation," he told a news conference.
U.S. House of Representatives member Michael Honda, a California Democrat, has introduced a non-binding resolution calling on the Japanese government 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 mostly Asian women forced to provide sex for Japan's soldiers at battle-zone brothels during the war.
Honda, one of a handful of U.S. lawmakers of Japanese descent, has said he is alarmed at efforts by some conservatives in Japan to withdraw or revise the government's earlier admission of a state role in the brothel system.
A group of ruling party lawmakers was set to urge the government to water down parts of the apology and had drawn up a report on changes it wanted made, the Yomiuri Shimbun said last Thursday.
But Shiozaki said he did not believe this was the case, adding: "I don't think there are efforts being made to amend or retract the statement."