[ETAN-key] U.S. House wants Japan apology on "comfort women"
fbp at igc.org
Tue Jul 31 06:42:03 PDT 2007
Also Japan expresses regret over U.S. call for apology in WWII sex slavery
House wants Japan apology
'Comfort women' resolution urges government to say it's sorry
<mailto:eepstein at sfchronicle.com>Edward Epstein, Chronicle Washington Bureau
Tuesday, July 31, 2007
(07-31) 04:00 PDT Washington -- The House passed a resolution Monday
calling on Japan to finally formally apologize to tens of thousands
of "comfort women" forced into World War II sex slavery, despite
vigorous lobbying by the Japanese government.
The measure sponsored by Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose, which
culminated years of lobbying by the surviving women from several
Asian and European countries and their supporters, passed by voice
vote after about a half hour of debate in which no one spoke in opposition.
To people in the United States, the issue is just one of many obscure
foreign matters on which Congress weighs in with nonbinding resolutions.
But in Japan, Honda's demand for an apology 62 years after Japan's
surrender has been headline news for months. It has become one of
many troubles dogging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose ruling Liberal
Democratic Party was routed Sunday in elections for parliament's upper house.
Nationalist forces in Japan object to a formal apology, and to what
they see as U.S. meddling in the affairs of Japan, one of
Washington's closest and most powerful allies.
The issue of the comfort women, who were forced into prostitution by
Japan's army, has also prompted ongoing anger at Japan in such
countries as China, South Korea and the Philippines, home to many of
"Today the House will make history," Honda said on the House floor.
"We must teach future generations that we cannot allow this to
continue to happen.
"I have always believed that reconciliation is the first step in the
Honda spent his early childhood with his parents in an internment
camp in Colorado after President Franklin Roosevelt ordered all
Japanese Americans rounded up after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Honda
pointed to the decision by Congress and President Ronald Reagan to
apologize to the World War II internees as an example Japan should emulate.
But the Japanese government, which hired lobbying firms to oppose the
measure, hardly seems in a conciliatory mood.
Two weeks ago, the Washington Post reported that Japanese Ambassador
Ryozo Kato had sent a strongly worded private letter to House
leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, warning
that the resolution could have a sharply negative effect on
Kato warned that passage "will almost certainly have lasting and
harmful effects on the deep friendship, close trust and wide-ranging
cooperation our two nations now enjoy."
Early this year, Abe seemed to back away from earlier words of
apology from ministers in previous Japanese Cabinets, fueling demands
for a formal apology to the some 200,000 women who were involved.
When Abe visited Washington in April, he was asked about the issue
and said, "As a person and prime minister, I have heartfelt
sympathies with the difficulty, bitterness and suffering incurred by
comfort women and feel sorry for such situations."
Bush said he accepted Abe's words, offered as an individual but not
on behalf of Japan's government, as an apology.
While Honda scored a victory with his latest resolution, his earlier
effort to allow U.S. servicemen who were forced into slave labor in
Japan during the war to sue for damages hasn't gotten anywhere in
Congress. The measure, co-sponsored by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,
R-Huntington Beach (Orange County) is vigorously opposed by the Bush
administration, which said it would violate the 1951 peace treaty
with Japan that bars such lawsuits.
Honda said he doesn't think his resolution will harm U.S.-Japan
relations. "Our friendship would be stronger, our admiration for the
Japanese government would be stronger if they saw fit to come
forward" and formally apologize, he said.
He also said he would like to see Japanese school textbooks revised
to deal frankly with the comfort women and other World War II issues.
This article appeared on page A - 3 of the San Francisco Chronicle
Japan expresses regret over U.S. call for apology in WWII sex slavery
By Norimitsu Onishi The Associated Press
Published: July 31, 2007
TOKYO: Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described as "regrettable" on
Tuesday the approval of a resolution by the U.S. House of
Representatives calling on Japan to acknowledge its wartime sex
slavery, indicating strongly that the Japanese government would not
offer surviving victims an official apology.
"The resolution's approval was regrettable," said Abe, who provoked
anger in Asia and the United States in March by denying that the
Japanese military had directly coerced women into sex slavery during
World War II.
News of the resolution's approval, which had been expected, came as
Abe faced more calls to resign after his governing Liberal Democratic
Party's crushing defeat in the election on Sunday for the upper house
Asked whether he would comply with the resolution's call for an
official apology, Abe said: "The 20th century was an era in which
human rights were violated. I would like to make the 21st century
into an era with no human rights violations."
On Monday, the House unanimously passed a nonbinding resolution
demanding that the Japanese government "formally acknowledge" and
"apologize" for its military's "coercion of women into sexual slavery."
The Japanese government had lobbied hard against the resolution in
Washington, warning that it could harm relations between the two countries.
Abe has expressed sympathy for the former sex slaves. But he has
consistently refused to acknowledge the military's role in directly
forcing women into sex slavery despite historical evidence and the
testimony of many of the women.
Some of the aging former sex slaves, known euphemistically as
"comfort women" in Japan, and their advocates welcomed the
resolution. But they reacted angrily to Abe's response.
"Abe denies that they were the ones who violated the women," said Jan
Ruff O'Herne, 84, a Dutch woman who was forced into sex slavery in
Indonesia. "I didn't expect anything better from him than that."
"But this resolution puts enormous pressure on the Japanese
government," Ruff added, speaking by phone from her home in Adelaide,
Australia. "I'm still hoping that something will happen, because the
women are getting old, and we deserve a proper apology."
Gil Won Ok, 78, a South Korean woman who was forced into sex slavery
in northeastern China, said that "truth survives and lies never win."
"I think that's why America passed this resolution," said Gil,
speaking from Seoul. "I was worried that Japan's active lobbying
would not make this happen."
The Japanese Parliament has never endorsed an official apology or
acknowledgement of past sex slavery, the central demand in the House
resolution, though previous prime ministers have issued letters of
apology to some of the former sex slaves.
Last spring, Abe bluntly rejected any demand for an apology. But
since then he has avoided talking in detail about the issue. He has
repeated instead that many human rights violations occurred last
century, angering former sex slaves and their supporters who say his
comments were meant to play down Japan's crimes.
"Abe really does not know his history," said Nelia Sancho, leader of
Lolas Kampanyera, a group supporting former sex slaves in Manila. "In
order to create a world without human rights violations, each state
has to learn from its past mistakes and, most importantly, it has to
redress its past violations. Until that is done, the 21st century
will not become an era with no human rights violations."
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