TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese academics presented on Tuesday what they said was additional evidence to prove that the military kidnapped women to serve as sex slaves during World War Two, rejecting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s claims.
The academics, belonging to a centre looking into Japan’s war responsibility, also urged Abe’s government to come up with a clearer apology to the women -- mostly from Asia -- and offer them compensation.
Abe has come under fire for his remarks last month that there was no proof that the government or the military forced women to work in the wartime brothels as “comfort women”, as the sex slaves are known in Japan.
The Japanese leader has apologized for the sex slaves and has said he stands by a 1993 statement that acknowledged official involvement in the management of the brothels, but has also said he would apologize again even if U.S. lawmakers adopted a resolution seeking one.
Hirofumi Hayashi, a professor at Kanto-Gakuin University, presented at a news conference several documents, submitted as evidence to the Tokyo war crimes tribunal, showing that the Japanese military had kidnapped women to work as sex slaves.
“It is a great mystery why the Japanese government ignores these documents,” Hayashi said, pointing out that Japan must acknowledge them as it accepted the rulings of the Allied-run tribunal when it signed peace treaties that ended the war.
Hayashi said he had found the documents last year, but decided to disclose them now in response to remarks by Abe and others in government denying military involvement in kidnapping the women.
“Our work throughout the 90s had made it clear that the military was involved. But there have been overt moves by the government to deny this,” Hayashi said.
Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a history professor at Chuo University, said the government should recognize that the wartime government and the military were responsible, adding that it should offer an apology clearer than that in the 1993 statement.
“It left it ambiguous as to who ‘injured the women’,” he said.
“It’s shocking that there are no statements issued under a cabinet decision or approval regarding the comfort women,” Yoshimi said. “The government needs to send out a clearer message.”
He said a new statement should be made under some cabinet decision, adding that the government should also enact a new law and offer compensation to the women.
The government has said it is not liable for such compensation as the issue was settled under peace treaties that ended the war, but it did provide funds to the Asian Women’s Fund that offered compensation and medical care to the victims in combination with private donations.
Critics say the fund, set up in 1995 and disbanded last month, makes ambiguous the government’s responsibility for forcing the women to serve as sex slaves.
Abe’s denial of official involvement in kidnapping women to work in the wartime brothels has risked straining ties with Washington, where U.S. Congressman Michael Honda has introduced a resolution calling for Japan to make an unambiguous apology to the sex slaves.
But no vote on the resolution, which Tokyo has criticized as full of errors, is expected until May, after Abe visits Washington for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush.