WASHINGTON – The “comfort women” who were forced to provide sex to the Japanese military across Asia during the war were the victims of rape, according to U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer, the New York Times reported in its electronic edition Saturday.
“I think they were coerced to engage in prostitution. That means they were raped by the Japanese military at that point in time,” Schieffer said Friday in a meeting with reporters, according to the dispatch from Tokyo.
“I think that happened, and I think it was a regrettable, terrible thing that it happened,” he was quoted as saying.
Schieffer described the victims who testified last month in Congress about being coerced into prostitution by the Japanese authorities as “credible witnesses.”
The U.S. envoy said he hopes the Japanese government “would not back away” from the 1993 statement that acknowledged the military’s involvement in the forced recruitment and apologized for it, according to the paper.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said earlier this month that there is no evidence that the Japanese military forced women into frontline brothels.
Some conservative members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party have been trying to conduct a new investigation in a bid to scrap the 1993 statement, arguing the military did not force foreign women into sexual slavery. Abe used to head this group.
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