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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s refusal to apologize anew for Japan’s sex-slave policy during World War II has a different meaning in Japan than it does abroad. The issue has come around again because the U.S. Congress is considering a resolution to demand that Japan clearly accept responsibility for the policy. Abe has said the government will stand by a 1993 apology issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, but has stressed that there is no evidence that the Japanese military “used coercion” to force women into frontline brothels.

Overseas, Abe’s remarks made headlines and has provoked anger from those who say that the Japanese government has yet to own up to the sex-slave policy and is backtracking into denial. In Japan, Abe’s remarks have been buried in articles about Diet business or stuck at the end of TV news reports. The media see them as part of a strategy for Abe to appear more assertive in response to weakening public support for his administration.

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