US Congress Calls for Japan to Apologize for Comfort Women

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U.S. Rep. Michael M. Honda introduced a bipartisan resolution to the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, calling for Japan to formally acknowledge and accept responsibility for sexually enslaving women during World War II.

A similar resolution, drafted by Rep. Lane Evans, passed the committee last September. But it failed to go to the House's plenary voting session due to Japan's strong lobbying.

More than 200,000 ``comfort women'' suffered gang rape, forced abortions and other humiliations under Japan's colonial and wartime occupation of Asia from the 1930s through the duration of World War II, a statement posted on Honda's Web site said.

``These women's hope is a modest one: That the government of Japan acknowledges, apologizes and accepts full historical responsibility for this crime,'' Honda said.

The Japanese-American lawmaker said the purpose of this resolution is not to bash or humiliate Japan.

``This legislation, rather, seeks to achieve justice for the few remaining women who survived these atrocities, and to shed light on a grave human rights violation that has remained unknown for so many years,'' he said.

Daniel Kohns, Honda's spokesman, said a hearing will be held in the next couple of weeks.

The resolution is cosponsored by Reps. Edward R. Royce, Christopher H. Smith, Diane E. Watson, David Wu, Phil Hare and Delegate Madaleine Bordallo. It does not have the force of law but can place the Japanese government on the defensive.

Honda received the baton from Evans, who recently retired due to Parkinson's disease, to restart the legislative action.

The new resolution has a stronger tone than the previous version, pressing for Japan's formal apology as well as acknowledgment and responsibility for the sexual slavery and admitting that there was ``coercion.''

It also calls for an apology by the Japanese prime minister himself in his official capacity.

Last October, Prime Minister Shinjo Abe briefly told the Japanese parliament that he accepted a 1993 statement, under which Yohei Kono, then chief cabinet secretary, officially acknowledged and apologized for the enslavement of comfort women.

Japan established the Asian Women Fund in 1995 to help the victims of enslavement. But the fund is private and not a government fund.

Tokyo argues that the fund was established with cooperation from the government and the Japanese people, and that the government contributed funds for the organization's operating costs as well as its medical welfare support projects, according to a wire news report.

Historians say at least 200,000 young women, mostly Koreans but also from Taiwan, China, the Philippines and Indonesia, were forced to serve as sex slaves in Japanese army brothels.

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