US calls for Japan sex slave apology
Updated: 2007-06-27 10:30
A resolution calling on Japan to officially apologize for pressing thousands
of women into sexual servitude in World War Two won strong approval on Tuesday
from a US congressional committee. The
resolution introduced by Japanese-American lawmaker Mike Honda was approved 39
to 2 by the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee in a
step that allows the nonbinding measure to move to the full house.
symbolic statement of US Congressional sentiment on the issue, which has caused
political controversy in Japan, will have no bearing on US policy toward its
most important Asian ally.
Rep. Tom Lantos, the committee chairman,
launched debate on the resolution with a statement calling Japan "our greatest
friend in Asia and one of our closest partners in the world."
Japan's refusal to make an official government apology to the women who suffered
as so-called 'comfort women' is disturbing to all who value this relationship,"
said Lantos, a California Democrat.
"Comfort women" is a Japanese
euphemism for the estimated 200,000 mostly Asian women historians say were
forced or tricked into providing sex for Japan's soldiers in frontline brothels
across the Pacific theater of World War Two.
Japan in 1993 acknowledged
a state role in the wartime brothel program and later set up the Asian Women's
Fund that gathered private donations and offered payments of about $20,000 to
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked a furor in March
when he denied that there was evidence the government or military were directly
involved in procuring the women.
He later apologized for their suffering
and repeated that he stood by the 1993 statement acknowledging official
involvement in setting up and running the military brothels.
restated that stance in an April summit outside Washington with US President
George W. Bush, who called Abe's words on the women "very straightforward and
from his heart."
Asked by reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday about the
expected US committee vote, Abe said: "I explained my thinking when I visited
the United States. I have nothing to add."
"The relationship between
Japan and the United States is indispensable, and I believe the relationship is
firm," he said when asked what impact the resolution might have on ties with
Lantos, who co-sponsored the resolution by California
Democratic Rep. Honda, said "we do not want our good friend and ally Japan to
believe we regard them in perpetual punishment for their refusal to acknowledge
the comfort women episode."
"We want a full reckoning of history to help
everyone heal, and then move on," he added.
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