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Japanese Prime Minister Vows No New Apology on WWII Sex Slaves


Japan's Prime Minister says there will be no further apology from his government regarding the forced recruitment of Asian women for Japanese military brothels during the World War II. The issue has been divisive in Asia for decades, but is flaring again since the Japanese leader's public denial of military involvement in the recruitment. VOA's Kurt Achin has more from Seoul, where there is widespread anger over the remarks.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stood firm Monday in his recent denials of forced recruitment of Asian sex slaves by the Japanese military during World War II.

Abe told lawmakers in Tokyo that Japan will not offer any further apologies to women who served in Japanese military brothels during the World War II.

Victims' groups say about 200,000 Asian women, mainly from Korea, China and the Philippines, were forced to work in the brothels. The United States Congress is considering a resolution that would call on Japan's government to offer a formal apology to the women.

Mr. Abe said Monday that no apology would be forthcoming, even if the U.S. resolution passes.

Here in South Korea, the plight of what are called "comfort women" is one of the most painful reminders of Japan's colonial rule over the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945.

The issue returned to the headlines here last Thursday, as South Koreans commemorated their nation's March 1, 1919 uprising against Japanese rule.

On that occasion, Mr. Abe was reported to have said there was "no evidence" the comfort women were forced to work in the brothels. The implication of those remarks, and previous ones by the Japanese Prime Minister, was widely understood to be that comfort women served the Japanese military voluntarily.

Kang Joo-hye, the director of one of South Korea's main advocacy groups for the women most of whom are now in their 70s and 80s, says former comfort women reacted strongly to Abe's statements.

Quoting some of the women, Kang says it is bad enough they killed us once. Now, she says, the Japanese are killing us twice. Kang says the women's anger is almost indescribable.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry issued a statement of "deep regret" Sunday about Mr. Abe's comments, saying they "distort history."

In 1993, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono did offer an apology for the comfort women era. He acknowledged there was evidence the women had been coerced. However, the apology was not backed by Japan's parliament, and the Japanese government has paid no reparations to the women.

Japanese and South Korean officials are meeting in Tokyo Monday to discuss a maritime border near a small island claimed by both countries. South Korean officials say Japan's claim to the island is another example of Tokyo's failure to distance itself from its militaristic past.

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