Subject: House panel calls for Japan sex slave apology
House panel calls for Japan sex slave apology
Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 4:30 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A resolution calling on Japan to officially apologize for pressing thousands of women into sexual servitude in World War Two won strong approval on Tuesday from a U.S. congressional committee.
The resolution introduced by Japanese-American lawmaker <http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/h001034/>Mike Honda was approved 39 to 2 by the U.S. House of Representatives International Relations [should read International Relations] Committee in a step that allows the nonbinding measure to move to the full house.
The symbolic statement of U.S. Congressional sentiment on the issue, which has caused political controversy in Japan, will have no bearing on U.S. policy toward its most important Asian ally.
<http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/members/l000090/>Rep. Tom Lantos, the committee chairman, launched debate on the resolution with a statement calling Japan "our greatest friend in Asia and one of our closest partners in the world."
"Yet, Japan's refusal to make an official government apology to the women who suffered as so-called 'comfort women' is disturbing to all who value this relationship," said Lantos, a California Democrat.
"Comfort women" is a Japanese euphemism for the estimated 200,000 mostly Asian women historians say were forced or tricked into providing sex for Japan's soldiers in frontline brothels across the Pacific theater of World War Two.
Japan in 1993 acknowledged a state role in the wartime brothel program and later set up the Asian Women's Fund that gathered private donations and offered payments of about $20,000 to 285 women.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked a furor in March when he denied that there was evidence the government or military were directly involved in procuring the women.
He later apologized for their suffering and repeated that he stood by the 1993 statement acknowledging official involvement in setting up and running the military brothels.
Abe restated that stance in an April summit outside Washington with U.S. President George W. Bush, who called Abe's words on the women "very straightforward and from his heart."
Asked by reporters in Tokyo on Tuesday about the expected committee vote, Abe said: "I explained my thinking when I visited the United States. I have nothing to add."
"The relationship between Japan and the United States is indispensable, and I believe the relationship is firm," he said when asked what impact the resolution might have on ties with Washington.
Lantos, who co-sponsored the resolution by California Democratic Rep. Honda, said "we do not want our good friend and ally Japan to believe we regard them in perpetual punishment for their refusal to acknowledge the comfort women episode."
"We want a full reckoning of history to help everyone heal, and then move on," he added.
(Additional reporting by Chisa Fujioka in Tokyo)