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Critics Slow to Accept Japan War Apology - 2001-09-09

Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka apologized Saturday for her country's aggression in World War II, but ruled out compensation for its victims. Ms. Tanaka spoke in San Francisco, where she joined U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to mark the 50th anniversary of two post-war treaties.

Ms. Tanaka offered what she called "deep remorse and heartfelt apology" for her nation's wartime actions against its Asian neighbors. She was reaffirming a statement made in 1995 by then Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama. He apologized at the time for Japanese colonialism and aggression in Asia.

Critics have been slow to accept the apology. They say that many in Japan are reluctant to acknowledge their country's wartime actions.

Ms. Tanaka and Mr. Powell were in San Francisco to mark the 50th anniversary of two historic treaties. The war in the Pacific ended in 1945, but on September 8, 1951, delegates from Japan and 47 other countries signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, which officially ended hostilities. The commemoration Saturday took place at the San Francisco Opera House, the site of the treaty signing.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the hall. They demanded that Japan compensate former prisoners of war, as well as captives who were subject to forced labor and Asian women forced into sexual slavery. The United States and Japan both say the treaty that ended hostilities also settled all wartime claims, and Ms. Tanaka and Mr. Powell reaffirmed that position.

Another ceremony Saturday commemorated the U.S.-Japan security agreement, signed at a San Francisco military base just hours after the signing of the peace treaty. In the bilateral pact, the United States committed itself to Japan's defense.

The security agreement has allowed Japan to focus on industrial development and to prosper since the war. Secretary of State Powell said the treaty will be as critical for the next 50 years as it has been for the last 50. He said the alliance is "indispensable" to U.S. policy in East Asia, allowing the United States to "engage constructively" with China. He says the United States and Japan are also working together to respond to the challenges posed by North Korea.

As part of the security treaty, some 50,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, three-quarters of them in the southern island prefecture of Okinawa. A number of incidents involving assaults on local women by U.S. servicemen have led to calls in Okinawa for the troops' withdrawal. Mr. Powell said the United States is working to minimize the burdens of U.S. bases on Okinawans.

Both countries say they are committed to retaining a U.S. presence in Japan, and Ms. Tanaka says the two governments will intensify discussions on security issues. She called the security pact "the anchor" for peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region. She added that regional instability means the need for deterrence is "undiminished."