Abe firm: ‘coercion’ not proved

by Hiroko Nakata

The resolution submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives calling on Japan to apologize for forcing women into sexual slavery in the 1930s and 1940s is based on misconceptions, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday.

He also repeated his position that there is no proof that Japanese military officials took the women — from Japanese-occupied parts of Asia — by force to frontline brothels.

The resolution submitted Jan. 31 by Democratic Rep. Mike Honda of California and a bipartisan group of lawmakers says Japan’s prime minister must “clearly and publicly refute any claims that the sexual enslavement and trafficking of the comfort women for the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces never occurred.” “Comfort women” was Japan’s euphemism for the sex slaves.

Abe made the comments in an interview with media organizations as criticism has been growing overseas, particularly in Asia, about his remarks over the past week, including one on March 1 that the women were not coerced.

“There is misunderstanding that the Japanese authorities broke into houses and took away women forcibly,” Abe said. “I have said that there is no document or witnesses that prove it.”

Abe said he will continue to stand by the 1993 government statement. That statement says the Japanese military played a role in the “recruitment” of the women, who were often deceived or forced into the sexual servitude.

He did not elaborate on any contradictions between his position and the 1993 statement.

Abe spoke on several other issues. He told the reporters that the ruling bloc will try to get Diet approval of a bill that sets out legal procedures for a national referendum on constitutional amendments by May 3, Constitution Day.

He also said it “should not take much time” before the government completes its study on the issue of collective defense.

The government has interpreted the war-renouncing Constitution as banning Japan from helping to defend an ally under attack. However, after he took office in September, Abe asked for studies to be done on the circumstances under which Japan would be able to participate in collective defense.