April 22, 2007 / 3:17 AM / 12 years ago

Abe says Japan feels "responsible" for WW2 sex slaves

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said Tokyo feels “responsible” for forcing women to work in brothels during World War Two, Newsweek magazine has reported.

Abe’s remark appears to be an effort to deflect U.S. criticism over comments he made last month that there was no proof the government or the military had forced the women, mostly Asian and many Korean, to serve Japanese soldiers in the brothels.

“We feel responsible for having forced these women to go through that hardship and pain as comfort women under the circumstances at the time,” Abe was quoted as saying in the interview, published in the magazine’s April 30 issue.

Abe also expressed sympathy for the “comfort women”, as they are known in Japan, and reiterated that his administration stood by a 1993 Japanese statement that acknowledged official involvement in the management of the brothels.

Abe’s comments last month have 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 women.

No vote on the resolution, which Tokyo has criticized as full of errors, is expected until May, after Abe visits the United States on Thursday and Friday for talks with U.S. President George W. Bush.

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