Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday there was no
evidence of coercion by Japan's wartime government in using Asian
women as sex slaves, backtracking from a landmark 1993 statement in
which the Japanese government acknowledged that it set up and ran
brothels for its troops in the last century.
"The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion,"
Abe told a group of reporters Thursday. "We have to take it from
Abe's remarks follow a recent US congressional resolution
calling for Japan's leader to "formally acknowledge, apologize and
accept historical responsibility" for using "comfort women" a
Japanese euphemism for women forced to have sex with Japanese
soldiers throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
Japan objects to the resolution, which has led to unease in an
otherwise strong US-Japanese relationship.
Abe's backtracking also comes amid moves by a group of ruling
party lawmakers to urge a revision to Japan's so-called Kono
Statement, issued in 1993 by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei
Kono, which clearly states that Japan's wartime military was
involved in setting up and operating brothels, and sometimes
recruited women with coercion.
The statement has been attacked by rightists in Japan, who argue
that the sex slaves were in fact prostitutes working willingly for
independent contractors, and were not coerced into servitude by the
Historians say that up to 200,000 women, mainly from the Korean
Peninsula and China, were forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers
in brothels run by the military government as so-called "comfort women" during World War II.
After decades of denial, incriminating defense documents
discovered in 1992 forced the government to acknowledge that the
military government ran brothels populated by women forcibly taken
from their homes.
Japanese leaders have since repeatedly apologized, including
former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, who said in 2001 that he
felt sincere remorse over the comfort women's "immeasurable and
But Japan has rejected most compensation claims, saying they
were settled by postwar treaties. Instead, a private fund created
in 1995 by the Japanese government but funded by private donations
has provided a way for Japan to compensate former sex slaves
without offering official government compensation. Many comfort
women have rejected the fund.
Supporters of the US resolution want an apology similar to the
one the US government gave to Japanese-Americans forced into
internment camps during World War II. That apology was approved by
Congress and signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in
(China Daily via agencies March 2, 2007)