The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee has passed, by a 39-2 vote, a nonbinding resolution that says “the government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery” during its occupation of Asia and Pacific islands from the 1930s through World War II. The resolution is likely to be approved by the full House.

A full-page ad in the Washington Post run by 44 Japanese lawmakers and others denying the sex slavery allegations is said to have triggered the passing of the resolution. But Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the government must realize that U.S. lawmakers distrust moves inside Japan to dilute or rescind the 1993 statement by then Chief Secretary Yohei Kono, which offered a “sincere” apology and self-examination concerning the “comfort women” issue. That statement said the Imperial Armed Forces had been directly and indirectly involved in managing comfort stations and transporting women, and that sex slavery deeply injured the honor and dignity of many women.

In his April visit to the United States, Mr. Abe expressed heartfelt sympathy for the hardships suffered by former comfort women, and President George W. Bush accepted “the prime minister’s apology.” But it was Mr. Abe’s earlier attempt to dilute Japan’s responsibility for instituting the servitude that had sowed the seeds of distrust. In March, he said that no testimonies had proven the existence of coercion “in a narrow sense” — in which “government authorities” intruded into homes and took women away by force. This was an attempt to shift attention from the government and the military’s involvement in the establishment and operation of the comfort women system.

The government and lawmakers must realize that dealing squarely with Japan’s wartime behavior is a cornerstone of Japan’s relationship with the U.S. or any other country for that matter. Any attempt to ruin the sincerity of Mr. Kono’s statement will betray the international community’s trust in Japan.

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