February 19, 2007 / 11:11 AM / 13 years ago

Japan's Aso: U.S. "sex slave" resolution regrettable

TOKYO (Reuters) - A proposed U.S. House of Representatives resolution calling on Japan to apologise for forcing women into sexual slavery in World War Two was groundless and regrettable, Foreign Minister Taro Aso said on Monday.

“It is extremely regrettable and definitely not based on facts,” Aso was quoted as saying in parliament by Kyodo news agency.

Last week three women testified to the U.S. Congress in a debate on the resolution, saying Tokyo’s efforts to atone for their ordeal were insufficient because official apologies were not accompanied by offers of government compensation.

The issue could be an irritant in normally strong diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Washington — particularly ahead of a visit to the U.S. by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe later this year.

Japan in 1993 acknowledged a state role in the wartime brothel programme and later issued apologies and set up the Asian Women’s Fund.

About 285 of the women who accepted payments of about $20,000 from that fund received personal apologies from Japan’s prime minister at the time.

But some conservatives still deny the wartime government was directly involved in running the brothels with the so-called “comfort women” — a Japanese euphemism for the estimated 20,000 mostly Asian women forced to provide sex for Japan’s soldiers.

Asked about the issue, Abe told reporters he stood by his stance to accept as valid the 1993 government statement that admitted the Imperial Japanese Army had forced the women to provide sex for soldiers.

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