USA: UPDATE: Speaker Nancy Pelosi issues a statement of support for the Japanese 'Comfort Women' Resolution

"Out of 200,000 women that were exploited as comfort women by the Japanese Imperial Army, only a few hundred are still alive. This resolution calls on the government of Japan to accept responsibility for the coercion of young
Speaker Nancy Pelosi released the following statement today in support of a resolution calling on the Japanese government to formally acknowledge and apologize for its Imperial Armed Forces' coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known as 'comfort women,' during its occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands during the World War II era:
"Today, the House Foreign Affairs Committee made a strong statement in support of human rights by passing a resolution in support of the comfort women, who were coerced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces during the World War II era.

"Congressman Mike Honda, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, is to be commended for his tireless advocacy on behalf of the comfort women and for those fighting for justice and human rights around the world.

"Japan is a valued friend and a crucial ally to the United States. As a responsible member of the international community, Japan is taking a leadership role on issues such as protecting the environment and providing humanitarian assistance for the poorest people in the world. Yet, in this case, the Japanese government needs to do more. It has been more than half a century since the horrors of World War II occurred, but it is not too late to recognize the mistakes of the past and educate future generations so that history will not repeat itself.

"Out of 200,000 women that were exploited as comfort women by the Japanese Imperial Army, only a few hundred are still alive. This resolution calls on the government of Japan to accept responsibility for the coercion of young women into sexual slavery during the war by making an unambiguous statement of apology.

"I look forward to the House of Representatives passing this resolution and sending a strong message that we will not forget the horrors endured by the comfort women. They have waited far too long, but it is not too late to recognize their courage."

Nancy Pelosi


Remarks of Chairman Lantos on H. Res. 121, regarding Comfort Women, at committee markup (Verbatim, as delivered.)

"I would first like to commend my friend and neighbor in California, our distinguished colleague, Congressman Honda of California, for introducing this important resolution and for all his hard work to give voice to the victims in this matter.

The Government of Japan's unwillingness to offer a formal and unequivocal apology to the women forced to be sexual slaves in World War II stands in stark contrast to its role in the world today. Japan is a proud world leader and a valued U.S. ally, making its unwillingness to honestly account for its past all the more perplexing.

Japan is clearly our greatest friend in Asia and one of our closest partners in the world. The U.S-Japan relationship is the bedrock of peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region. Our alliance and friendship are based on mutual respect and admiration, and together we have helped promote our shared values of democracy, economic opportunity, and human rights in Asia and throughout the world.

Yet, Japan's refusal to make an official government apology to the women who suffered as so-called "comfort women" is disturbing to all who value this relationship.

The true strength of a nation is tested when it is forced to confront the darkest chapters in its history. Will it have the courage to face up to the truth of its past, or will it hide from those truths in the desperate and foolish hope they will fade with time?

Post-War Germany made the right choice. Japan, on the other hand, has actively promoted historical amnesia.

The facts are plain: there can be no denying that the Japanese Imperial military coerced thousands upon thousands of women, primarily Chinese and Koreans, into sexual slavery during the war.

The continued efforts by some in Japan to distort history and play a game of blame-the-victim are also highly disturbing. Most recently, on June 14th, members of the Japanese government took out an advertisement in the Washington Post that smears the survivors of the comfort women system, including those who testified before our Subcommittee on Asia, Pacific, and Global Affairs.

The advertisement suggests that these women, who were forcibly and repeatedly raped by soldiers, were engaged, and I quote, in "licensed prostitution that was commonplace around the world at the time." This is a ludicrous assertion totally counter to the facts.

Our resolution calls on the Government of Japan to officially acknowledge and apologize for the appalling acts that Imperial Japan committed against the "comfort women." It is a resolution that seeks admission of a horrible truth in order that this horror may never be perpetrated again.

But most importantly, it speaks out for the victims of this monstrous act, who were terrorized and brutalized by men at war. It gives voice to these courageous women whom others have tried to silence through shame, bigotry, and threats of further violence.

It is appropriate that this House stand up for these women, who ask only that the truth be honored.

Finally, let me clear up the intent of Congress: we do not want our good friend and ally Japan to believe we regard them in perpetual punishment for their refusal to acknowledge the comfort women episode. We want a full reckoning of history to help everyone heal, and then move on.

I strongly support this resolution and I urge all of my colleagues across the aisle to do so likewise."

Congressman Tom Lantos, Chairman


Dutch legislator seeks clarification on denial of wartime sex slavery

A Dutch legislator sent a letter to her Japanese counterpart on Thursday to seek clarification about an opinion advertisement -- endorsed by some Japanese lawmakers -- in a U.S. newspaper that disputes that women in Asia were forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II, a parliamentary spokesperson told Kyodo News.

The letter by President Gerdi Verbeet of the Dutch House of Representatives was sent to Speaker Yohei Kono of the Japanese House of Representatives.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende also expressed displeasure about the ad and about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statement in March that no evidence exists to show women were coerced to work in brothels for Japanese servicemen.

Some Dutch citizens in Indonesia, a then Dutch colony that was captured by Japan during the war, were among the women forced into sexual slavery, euphemistically called ''comfort women'' in Japan.

The full-page ad, dubbed ''THE FACTS,'' appeared in the June 14 edition of The Washington Post and said, ''No historical documents has ever been found by historians or research organizations that positively demonstrates that women were forced against their will into prostitution by the Japanese army.''

The ad, presented by journalist Yoshiko Sakurai and political commentator Taro Yayama and listed as ''assenters'' 44 Japanese lawmakers -- 29 from the Liberal Democratic Party, 13 from the Democratic Party of Japan and two independents. Abe, a House of Representatives member, is not among them.

The Asian Women's Fund, a Japanese government-initiated private relief fund set up in 1995, offered money to surviving former sex slaves ''for improvement of their livelihood'' and by 2001 241.5 million yen had been disbursed to nearly 80 women, including an undisclosed number from the Netherlands.

Along with the money, copies of a letter, signed by successive prime ministers, were also sent in which the prime minister offered their apologies to the women and expressed remorse. It was widely perceived in the Netherlands that the Japanese government formally acknowledged its responsibility over the issue.

The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee overwhelmingly passed a resolution Tuesday demanding an apology from Japan over the sex slavery.

(Source: Kyodo, 29 June 2007)