DPJ bill calls for sex slave redress, state apology

The Democratic Party of Japan has submitted a bill to the Diet urging the government to formally apologize to former “comfort women” and pay at least 5 million yen to each surviving victim.

The DPJ, the largest opposition party, submitted the bill Monday to the Upper House to “promote a resolution of issues concerning wartime victims of forced sex.”

The proposed legislation calls on the Prime Minister’s Office to set up a task force directly under the prime minister to chart out a clear-cut policy on the sex-slave issue, which has drawn anger and animosity in parts of Asia once under Japanese control.

According to historians and testimonies from former sex slaves, tens of thousands of women mostly in Asia — particularly Korea and China — were drafted or coerced to provide sex to Japanese soldiers during the war.

Shoji Motooka, head of the DPJ Upper House delegation, said the government should make a formal apology to the wartime sex victims and take the necessary measures to restore their dignity.

On monetary compensation, Motooka said the amount “should not be below 5 million yen” for each victim.

In 1995, the government helped set up a privately run fund, soliciting public donations and offering 2 million yen in “atonement money” to the wartime sex victims.

While some former sex slaves have accepted the compensation, many of them — particularly those in South Korea — have rejected the offer and insisted that the Japanese government itself compensate the victims.

Blair rethinks redress

LONDON (Kyodo) British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised Monday to re-examine his government’s policy not to give compensation to former prisoners of war held by the Japanese military during World War II.

The move followed a meeting at Downing Street between Blair and a delegation of British veterans who fought in the Asian theater.

The servicemen want the British government to pay the former POWs and their surviving widows for the suffering they went through in the Japanese camps.

The delegation, headed by senior members of the Royal British Legion, appeared to have made some headway.

“The prime minister said that he would look again at the issue, but we don’t want to raise expectations. That would be unfair,” a spokesman for Blair said.

The veterans have been demanding compensation since January 1999 after they realized that the British government was not prepared to try and secure more compensation for them from Japan.

The ex-servicemen claimed Article 26 of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty — which ended the state of war between the Allied powers and Japan — allowed for signatory governments to make further claims if Japan made subsequent payments higher than those received by the signatory states.