No apology for WWII sex slaves

And a U.S. resolution wouldn't change a thing, says Japan's prime minister.

Published March 5, 2007 6:58PM (EST)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is at it again. Today, the conservative politician said that even if U.S. lawmakers passed a resolution asking Japan to apologize for the government's role in forcing women to work in wartime brothels "that doesn't mean we will apologize," reports Reuters. This comes after Abe tried to suppress a report on these so-called comfort women and challenged outright the historical accuracy of accounts of sexual enslavement at the hands of the Japanese government during World War II.

Last week, Abe argued, "It was not as though military police broke into people's homes and took them away like kidnappers.'' But as professor Andrew Horvat of Tokyo Keizai University says, "if you look at the statements of comfort women themselves, very few are saying that people actually came into their houses and forced them to leave. But recruiters were working for the government and in that sense they were responsible for it, and whether it was physical coercion or the use of authority and deception is really a moot point."

Most interesting, though, is that Abe's stance on the issue has been a little wobbly. In September, much to the dismay of his conservative base, he voiced support for Japan's 1993 apology for the atrocities. Facing declining popularity, "he is trying to mobilize his core supporters, who tend to be sort of right-wing and nationalist," said international affairs professor Phil Deans of Temple University.

While desperately pandering to his base, though, Abe has managed to win over an international crew of critics.

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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