Negroponte cool to U.S. call for sex slave apology

by Reiji Yoshida

Issues pertaining to Japan’s wartime sexual slavery should be dealt between Tokyo and the affected parties, not a third country, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said Friday.

“Our view is what happened during the war was most deplorable. But as far as some kind resolution of this issue (is concerned), this is something that must be dealt with between Japan and the countries that were affected,” he said.

The deputy secretary, in Tokyo on his first trip in his new job, was asked by reporters to comment on a bipartisan resolution in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on Japan to apologize for enslaving women to provide sex for the Imperial Japanese Army during the war.

The resolution says “Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner” for enslaving the women.

He said dwelling on the issue could “disrupt” the ability of the U.S. and Asia to deal with other important opportunities and challenges. “We want to move forward in a positive manner on these agendas,” Negroponte said.

He added it was his understanding that Tokyo had already expressed official apologies over the “comfort women” issue.

Negroponte was scheduled to travel Saturday to Beijing and then on to South Korea. One of the key issues on Negroponte’s agenda is discussing the recent deal struck in the six-party talks on denuclearizing North Korea.

He described the last round of the six-party talks last month as “a good first step, but just a first step in a process that will lead to more and stable and secure Northeast Asia.”

“We remain mindful of Japan’s concerns, including those regarding the abduction issue, and we share Japan’s desire to resolve this issue,” Negroponte said.

Summit end of April?

Kyodo News

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in the final stage of arranging a visit to the United States around April 26 to 27 for a summit with President George W. Bush, government sources said Friday.

Arrangements are still under way and have not yet been finalized, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said at a morning press conference.

The trip will be Abe’s first U.S. visit since taking office last September. His first overseas trips as prime minister were to China and South Korea in October.