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Last Updated: Monday, 5 March 2007, 06:35 GMT
Japan refuses sex slave apology
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
Mr Abe's comments are in response to a US hearing
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says Japan will not issue another apology for its World War II military brothels.

Mr Abe said none of the testimony in recent US Congress hearings showed solid proof prostitutes were abused.

Elaborating on comments he made last week, he said he would not go beyond a 1993 apology on the issue, even if Washington asked for one.

Many historians say Japan compelled up to 200,000 women, mostly Chinese and Korean, to become sex slaves.

But some Japanese scholars deny that force was used to round up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses.

Last Thursday Mr Abe sided with these critics, saying there was "no evidence to prove there was coercion".

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon retaliated, saying Mr Abe's remarks were "not helpful" and the truth must be faced.

On Monday, Mr Abe again commented on the issue, saying while there was no evidence of coercion in the strict sense, there may be some evidence of independent brokers procuring women by force.

But "it was not as though military police broke into peoples' homes and took them away like kidnappers," he said.

US hearings

The US House of Representatives is currently considering a non-binding resolution calling on Tokyo to "formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility" for these so-called comfort women.

Former Taiwanese sex slave Cheng Chen Tao, 83 (file image)
There were an estimated 200,000 comfort women
The draft text was debated last week, and three former comfort women gave evidence, describing the rape and torture they endured at the hands of the Japanese soldiers.

"I have to say that even if the resolution passes, that doesn't mean we will apologise," Mr Abe said on Monday.

"There was no testimony that was based on any proof," he added.

He said he stood by a 1993 Japanese government apology, which acknowledged that the military set up and ran brothels for its troops during the war.

Many former comfort women are still seeking compensation from the Japanese government for their experiences.

Tokyo did set up a compensation fund in 1995, but it relies on private donations rather than government money.

The issue of the comfort women could harm a recent rapprochement between Japan and its Asian neighbours, China and South Korea.

Relations have been tense in recent years, in part because of disagreements over Japan's wartime past, but since taking office late last year Mr Abe has sought to improve ties.




SEE ALSO
Sex slave denial angers S Korea
03 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Abe questions sex slave 'coercion'
02 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan anger at US sex slave bill
19 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan WWII sex slave redress call
12 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan to end WWII sex slave fund
24 Jan 05 |  Asia-Pacific

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