TOKYO — Japan's prime minister said today that a U.S. resolution demanding Japan's formal apology for forcing thousands of Asian women into sex slavery during World War II was regrettable because Japan already has made amends.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved a resolution Monday urging Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for the suffering of so-called comfort women.
The resolution is regrettable, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters. I explained my views and the government's response on this matter during my visit to the U.S. in April.
Historians say the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly sent hundreds of thousands of women, mainly from Korea, China and the Philippines, to wartime Japanese military brothels to work as prostitutes in the 1930s and 1940s.
Since the government acknowledged the practice in the early 1990s, Japanese leaders have apologized repeatedly over the issue. However, in March, Mr. Abe triggered anger across Asia by saying there was no proof the women were coerced — reflecting a view among Japan's right-wing politicians, who claim the issue has been fabricated or exaggerated.
In South Korea, presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun welcomed the resolution and urged Japan to face up to history.
The best way of reconciliation is to view history correctly. Japan would not be unaware of this, Mr. Cheon said. We expect Japan to show a changed attitude.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said Japan had no plans to lodge a protest with Washington over the resolution.
We have already worked to clearly explain Japan's view, Mr. Shiozaki said. We will continue to do so.
In Washington, Rep. Tom Lantos, California Democrat, called nauseating what he said were efforts by some in Japan to distort and deny history and play a game of blame the victim.