HONDA VISITS TOKYO

Clear apology to sex slaves demanded

by Reiji Yoshida

Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda should make a clear apology over Japan’s responsibilities regarding wartime sex slaves and lead his Liberal Democratic Party and the Diet to pass a bill recognizing what Japan did to those women, U.S. Congressman Mike Honda said Tuesday in Tokyo.

If there is no progress in Japan over the World War II “comfort women” issue, it is possible Honda and his fellow U.S. lawmakers may take fresh action, possibly by bringing another resolution to the Congress, he said.

“I think there can be (that possibility), but it has to be based on educating the public,” said Honda, stressing that educating the Japanese people about their history should be one of the main purposes of such congressional action.

Honda, a Democrat from California, spearheaded a resolution passed by the House of Representatives last year demanding that Japan formally apologize for coercing women into wartime brothels.

According to Honda, Japan has not extended any official apology over the issue and has not recognized in a straightforward fashion the responsibility of the Japanese military.

“I would hope (Fukuda) will lead his party and the Diet to pass a bill that would recognize what has happened” in history, Honda said.

The Japanese government has argued that it and various prime ministers have repeatedly apologized over the sex slavery issue.

But many former conform women and their supporters say these apologies have been superficial and not based on a sincere attitude toward history.

“As prime minister of Japan, I . . . extend anew my most sincere apologies and remorse to all the women who underwent immeasurable and painful experiences and suffered incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women,” said Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto in a 1996 letter to former comfort women.

Subsequent Prime Ministers Keizo Obuchi, Yoshiro Mori and Junichiro Koizumi signed letters with the same text that were sent to former comfort women.

“We must not evade the weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future,” the prime ministers said in the letter.