NEW YORK – The New York state Senate passed a resolution Tuesday honoring a “comfort women” monument erected in the state, saying it serves as a reminder that the coercion of Asian women into sexual servitude by the Imperial Japanese Army was a “crime against humanity,” a lawmaker’s staff member said.
The resolution says approximately 200,000 young women were forced into military prostitution during the Japanese colonial and wartime occupation of parts of Asia and some Pacific Islands.
The resolution was a toned-down version of an earlier draft that sought an apology from the Japanese government and encouraged it to “accept historical responsibility and educate future generations about these crimes.”
The resolution honors a monument established in 2012 in New York that it says “symbolizes suffering endured by comfort women and serves as a reminder of the crime against humanity committed through the comfort women system.”
In October, a South Korean civic group put an ad in New York’s Times Square urging the Japanese government to apologize to the victimized women.
In response, conservative Japanese lawmakers — including Shinzo Abe, who became prime minister in late December — published an ad in a newspaper in New Jersey saying that no historical documents have ever been found that show women “were forced against their will” into prostitution by the Imperial Japanese Army.
Summit with China
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggested Tuesday the leaders of Japan and China need to hold talks to move past the Senkaku territorial dispute, and also said North Korea will face a “strict response” if it conducts another nuclear test.
“There might be a need to re-establish the relationship, starting with a summit,” Abe said on TV, referring to the growing tensions over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea that are claimed by Beijing.
The islets are Japan’s “inherent territory” and there is “no room for negotiations” over the sovereignty of the islets, Abe said, reiterating Tokyo’s position. But he also said the two countries need to rebuild a “strategic partnership of mutual benefit” and “hold a summit or high-level talks because of the problems we have faced.”
The comments followed recent visits to China by Natsuo Yamaguchi, leader of New Komeito, the junior coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party, and Tomiichi Murayama, who was prime minister in 1995 when Japan issued a statement apologizing for the wartime aggression in Asia.
Yamaguchi conveyed a personal letter from Abe to new leader Xi Jinping on Friday. He quoted Xi as saying he will “seriously consider” Yamaguchi’s proposal for a Japan-China summit while expressing hope the two countries would develop a “strategic relationship of mutual benefit.”
With North Korea vowing to carry out what would be its third nuclear test, Abe said Pyongyang will face a “rather strict response” from the international community if it goes ahead. The Abe government has said it will cooperate on the issue with the United States and South Korea in line with U.N. resolutions.
“It is important to have (North Korea) understand it will gain nothing by challenging the international community,” Abe said.
He is expected to visit the United States next month for talks with President Barack Obama at a time when Japan is studying whether to join negotiations on the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade framework, which is drawing opposition from farmers and some of the LDP lawmakers who rely on their votes.
Abe has said numerous times that Japan won’t join the TPP talks if it is required to eliminate tariffs without exception, while adding the government will decide on its position and show the public a clear “direction” ahead of the Upper House election expected in July.