Japan's prime minister will make his first trip to the US as
premier this month for summit talks on the Korean nuclear issue and
Iraq, against a backdrop of renewed controversy over Japan's use of
military brothels during World War II (WWII).
Shinzo Abe will visit the United States on April 26-27 and hold
meetings with US President George W. Bush at Camp David before
traveling to the Middle East, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa
Shiozaki announced Wednesday.
The visit comes at a sensitive time, with US lawmakers
considering a non-binding resolution urging Japan to apologize
formally for forcing thousands of women into the brothels.
Abe has come under fire at home and abroad for suggesting in
early March that there is no proof that the Imperial government or
military coerced women into the brothels during the war, apparently
backtracking a 1993 apology.
In a 20-minute phone call with Bush late on Tuesday to prepare
for the trip, Abe said he stands by the government's landmark 1993
apology. Abe said he broached the subject to clarify any
"Since my remarks on the so-called comfort women issue have not
been accurately reported, I expressed my true intention to
President Bush just to clarify," Abe said.
Bush told Abe that he appreciated his candor and noted that
Japan today is not the Japan of WWII, National Security Council
spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
The upcoming meeting will not be Abe's first with Bush. The two
leaders met on the sidelines of a Pacific Rim summit in Vietnam
last year, after Abe took office in September.
The US summit will touch on the ongoing war in Iraq, for which
Japan has provided noncombat military support, as well as the
six-party talks on reining in Pyongyang's nuclear program, Shiozaki
Japanese prime ministers usually visit the US, Japan's biggest
ally, soon after taking office, but Abe has stressed his all-around
foreign policy by visiting Europe and Asian neighbors first.
(China Daily via agencies April 5, 2007)