Wed, Jun 20, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Japan unhappy with US' proposed sex slaves vote

AP AND AFP , TOKYO

Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso said yesterday that he regrets the plans by a US House of Representatives committee to vote on a resolution demanding Japan apologizes to wartime sex slaves.

"I think it is too bad," Aso told reporters when asked to comment on the planned vote. "The prime minister has expressed Japan's position and we stand by that."

His remarks came after Kyodo News agency and public broadcaster NHK reported that the House Foreign Affairs Committee has decided to put the resolution to a vote next Tuesday.

Nariaki Nakayama, a conservative lawmaker who has led a drive to tone down Japan's past apology to former comfort women, lashed out at the US Congress.

"I don't think the US House would do something so senseless," Nakayama said yesterday.

"It wouldn't show common sense to adopt a cooked-up bill, as there are no facts" that back US lawmakers' assertions, he said.

"We, the Japanese lower house, wouldn't ask for an apology from the US government for the slavery system, saying they brought black people from Africa, enslaved them and forced them to work and did such cruel things."

Japan objects to the nonbinding resolution -- which is likely to pass -- saying it is not based on historical fact.

The resolution calls for Japan to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the women's ordeal.

Historians say as many as 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, China and the Philippines, worked in Japanese military brothels in the 1930s and 1940s. Many victims say they were forced to work as sex slaves by military authorities and were held against their will.

The Japanese government issued a carefully worded official apology in 1993 for its role in wartime prostitution after a historian discovered documents showing government involvement.

However, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe rekindled controversy earlier this year by saying there is no evidence the women were coerced, although he later repeatedly distanced himself from that comment.

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