Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived at the White House
Thursday morning to hold his first summit in the United States with
President Bush since the Japanese premier took office in
Shortly after his arrival in Washington, the Japanese leader
renewed his expression of sympathy for Asian women driven into
brothels by Japan's military during World War II while he pledged
to step up its alliance with the United States, AFP reported.
"As a person and as prime minister, I feel sympathy from the
bottom of my heart to former comfort women, who experienced
hardships," Abe told a small group of Republicans and Democrats on
Capitol Hill, according to a Japanese government official.
"I feel deeply sorry that they were forced to be placed in such
extremely painful situations," he added.
Abe sparked controversy last month by saying there was no
evidence the imperial army directly coerced thousands of "comfort
women" into brothels across Asia during World War II.
The prime minister has since stressed he stands by Japan's
landmark 1993 apology to the women. Bush praised Abe's "candor" on
the issue in a telephone conversation early this month, according
to the White House.
During the meeting with US lawmakers, Abe said he hoped to build
on a strategic relationship that grew under Abe's predecessor,
Junichiro Koizumi, one of Bush's closest allies, a personal friend,
and a staunch backer of the Iraq war.
"The Japan-US alliance is an indispensable and unshakable one,"
"It is vitally important for both Japan and the United States to
(maintain) peace and stability of the Asian region, where unstable
elements such as the Korean peninsula still exist," he said.
"It is necessary to further strengthen the Japan-US alliance. I
would like to work together with the United States to continue
dealing with various issues such as North Korea, Iraq and
The congressional group, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,
praised Japan's contribution to the reconstruction of Iraq and
called on both Tokyo and Washington to jointly tackle issues
related to the international community, according to the Japanese
During planned talks at the White House and the Camp David
presidential retreat, Abe was to seek reassurances from the US
president on North Korea, particularly on the issue of Japanese
citizens abducted by Pyongyang.
"I will express my stance with an iron will of seeking a
solution to the abduction issue," said Abe, who rejected a
US-backed aid-for-disarmament deal with North Korea due to the
At the meeting today at the US presidential retreat in Camp
David, Maryland, the two leaders are set to dine on an all-American
lunch of controversial US beef -- in the form of
Japanese curbs on US beef are one of the stickier trade issues the
leaders were expected to discuss.
Japan this week agreed to ease its strict inspection regime on
imports of US beef, which it had imposed over concerns about
(China Daily via agencies April 27, 2007 )