SOURCE: Agence France Presse (6-19-07)
Japan voiced regret Tuesday as the US Congress moved forward with a resolution demanding an unambiguous apology from Tokyo for forcing Asian women into sexual slavery before and during World War II.
"It is regrettable," Foreign Minister Taro Aso told reporters as a US congressional committee set a debate on the resolution about so-called "comfort women" for next week.
The session will allow lawmakers the chance to debate, amend and possibly vote to send the resolution to the full House.
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 told reporters."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 has lobbied hard against the bill, seen as more likely to pass since the Democrats took power of Congress from US President George W. Bush's Republicans in January. Historians say up to 200,000 young women from Korea, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Taiwan were forced to serve as sex slaves in Japanese army brothels. The bill says the"government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force's coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as 'comfort women'." Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked controversy in March by saying there was no evidence the imperial army directly coerced thousands of women into brothels across Asia. Abe has since stressed he stands by Japan's landmark 1993 apology to the women and expressed his sympathy for the women during a US visit in late April. But critics say he has not taken back his initial remarks. Last week, 44 Japanese lawmakers, some close to Abe, took out a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post denying Japan's military forced the women into sexual slavery. Aso, the foreign minister, said the Japanese government's stance had been" consistent" on the issue. Yasuhisa Shiozaki, chief cabinet secretary and the government's top spokesman, withheld comment on the US move.