Abe apology over comfort women goes only so far
By Chris Cermak Apr 28, 2007, 2:36 GMT
Washington - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a series of apologies this week over the use of Asian women as sex slaves during World War II, but that has not stopped US lawmakers from complaining that he has not gone far enough to acknowledge his country's responsibility.
Abe, Japan's first prime minister born after the war, has been under fire from Asian neighbours and the US since saying last month that there was 'no evidence' of Japan's military forcing thousands of women in East Asia into sexual slavery.
US congressional leaders have been considering a bill urging the Japanese government to issue a formal apology for the practice in light of Abe's comments. Abe met with several lawmakers during a two- day visit to Washington and his first since becoming prime minister in September.
Japan apologized for its wartime actions, including treatment of the so-called 'comfort women,' in 1993, but South Korea and others said they doubted that apology in light of Abe's comments.
'In my meeting with the congressional representatives yesterday I explained my thoughts, and that is I do have deep-hearted sympathies that the people who had to serve as comfort women were placed in extreme hardships,' Abe said Friday after a meeting with US President George W Bush.
About 200,000 women from China, Thailand, the Philippines and other countries are believed to have been abducted by the Japanese military and forced to perform sexual favours for soldiers. Some of the women were as young as 12.
Abe had already made a similar statement after meeting with members of Congress Thursday, and Bush said he accepted the apology. But though Abe has apologized for the women's 'painful situation,' he has stopped short of acknowledging Japan's role in kidnapping the women and coercing them into military brothels.
Some congressional representatives on Friday said his remarks did not go far enough.
'The logical extension ... is now for the government of Japan to endorse the prime minister's personal sentiments in a formal, official and unambiguous fashion, recognizing that these women were coerced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during World War II,' said Democratic congressman Michael Honda, who introduced the bill in the House of Representatives calling for a formal apology.
Honda did not say whether Abe's visit and remarks would lead him to withdraw the bill, which is co-sponsored by 90 other members but opposed by the Bush administration. Japanese officials have warned that passage of the bill would harm relations between the two countries.
The dispute overshadowed Abe's visit as protesters gathered outside the White House on Thursday and a Korean American organization published an open letter in The New York Times on Friday criticizing the government's refusal to formally and 'unequivocally' apologize.
'Mr Abe, you may be part of the Japanese postwar generation, lacking any direct knowledge of these terrible crimes. However surely you must know that there are still large numbers of Koreans ... who remember vividly how many young Korean women were forcibly taken from the streets and ... forced to serve as military prostitutes,' the letter said.
Though Japan has improved relations with its Asian neighbours in recent years, missteps over its role and actions during World War II have regularly interfered with that rapprochement.
Abe's predecessor Junichiro Koizumi was repeatedly criticized for visiting a shrine to Japan's war dead which includes soldiers accused of war crimes in the 1940s.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur