US lawmakers warn Japan PM on 'comfort women'

Two US lawmakers on Wednesday warned Prime Minister Shinzo Abe not to revise Japan's apology over sexual enslavement in World War II, saying the move would set back relations between the allies.

The lawmakers raised the issue two days before a White House visit by the conservative Japanese premier, whose previous period in office was dogged by historical issues but who is now seen as increasingly pragmatic.

Representative Mike Honda, who spearheaded a 2007 House resolution that took Japan to task got holding wartime sex slaves, and Representative Steve Israel voiced "serious concern" about the Abe government's stance.

In a letter, the two Democratic lawmakers wrote that if Japan revises a 1993 apology it "would have grave implications for the US-Japanese relationship and could ignite unnecessary tension and provocation with neighboring countries."

Historians say about 200,000 "comfort women" from Korea, China, the Philippines and elsewhere were drafted into Japanese army brothels. The legacy remains a particular sore point in Japan's relations with South Korea.

In the 1993 statement, Japan offered "sincere apologies" for the "immeasurable pain and suffering" inflicted on comfort women. Two years later, Japan issued a broader apology expressing "deep remorse" for war suffering.

Abe, whose grandfather was a World War II cabinet minister, raised controversy during his 2006 to 2007 premiership for his statements on comfort women and after leaving office he called for a revision of the apology.

The 1993 apology is passionately opposed by some conservatives who contend that Japan did not directly coerce the women.

Since returning to office in December, Abe said that he plans a new "future-oriented" statement on World War II.

He has declined comment on the comfort women apology, suggesting it was not under his purview as it was issued not by a prime minister but by Yohei Kono, then the chief cabinet secretary.

Honda, who was interned during World War II due to his Japanese ancestry, said that aging former comfort women were "still waiting for an appropriate apology" from Japan.

"Government is a living, breathing organism that is responsible for its past, present and future," Honda said.

"As someone who was put into an internment camp as an infant during World War II, I know reconciliation through government actions, to admit error, are the only ones likely to be long lasting," he said.

  • Popular hot yoga myths debunked 5 hours ago
    Popular hot yoga myths debunked

    What’s the hottest new workout taking the world by storm? That would be hot yoga, also known as Bikram yoga. Conducted in a heated room with sweltering temperatures of about 40°C (or approximately 104° Fahrenheit) and 40 per cent humidity, … Continue reading →

  • Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report 5 hours ago
    Thursday #sgroundup: Body found of boy who made first call from Korea ferry: report

    Here are today’s top trending stories in case you missed them.

  • Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day 17 hours ago
    Look, don't touch: Flickr photo of the day

    If there's one car that's particularly sought-after among today's well-heeled car collectors, a Ferrari 250 would be it. Usually it's the GTO variant, like the 1963 that sold for a record $52 million last year. A 250 of any sorts demands unfathomable cash, however, which is why we can but gawk at this 250 Testa Rossa. It's as close as any mere mortal will ever come to owning one.

  • Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern
    Photo of a very thin Lee Kuan Yew sparks concern

    A new picture of Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who is now 90 years old, has drawn concern from people on Singapore's internet space.

  • Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls
    Waste oil collector struggles after STOMP posts, receives help from kind souls

    After being photographed at work in Jurong pooling used oil near coffee shops, 50-year-old Valerie Sim has been struggling to keep her family afloat. Web portals STOMP and The Real Singapore published pictures of her in February, triggering a witch hunt for others like her and comments from readers like “Who knows if they’ll use it as cooking oil?” Some readers also said they filed police reports against her and other people they believed were doing the same thing she was.

  • Indonesian general says his flashy watch is a fake
    Indonesian general says his flashy watch is a fake

    JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia's military commander said critics who called him out for wearing an especially luxurious watch should be quiet because the timepiece is actually a cheap Chinese fake.