Australia PM tells Japan: no 'quibbling' on WWII sex slaves

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Prime Minister John Howard has set himself on a collision course with his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, by declaring there should be no "quibbling" over the degree of coercion used to force thousands of women to act as sex slaves for the Japanese military during World War II.

On the eve of their talks in Tokyo today, Mr Howard has made it clear he will not tolerate an attempt by Japan to rewrite history. He is expected to raise the issue with Mr Abe this afternoon.

Mr Abe enraged surviving so-called "comfort women" two weeks ago when — after the US Congress called on Japan to accept historical responsibility for the sex slave practice — he suggested there was no evidence to prove that the Japanese Government or army had coerced women to work in brothels...

Mr Abe tried to quell the controversy last Sunday by reiterating his support for the 1993 Kono statement of apology.

Mr Howard yesterday welcomed the reaffirmation of the 1993 statement, but rejected any attempt to parse definitions.

"There can be no quibbling about what happened … Any suggestion there was not coercion is completely repudiated by me and it has been completely repudiated by other Allied countries," he said.

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