Japan will not apologize again for its World War II military brothels, even if the U.S. Congress passes a resolution demanding it, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told parliament Monday.
Abe, elaborating on his denial last week that women were forced to serve as frontline prostitutes, said none of the testimony in hearings last month by the U.S. House of Representatives offered any solid proof of abuse.
“I must say we will not apologize even if there’s a resolution,” Abe told lawmakers in a lengthy debate, during which he also said he stood by Japan’s landmark 1993 apology on the brothels.
Historians say that up to 200,000 women — mostly from Korea and China — served in Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s.
Accounts of abuse by the military — including kidnapping of women and girls for use in the brothels — have been backed up by witnesses, victims and even former Japanese soldiers.
But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses.
Abe last week sided with the critics, saying that there was no proof that the women were coerced into prostitution, igniting a storm of criticism and protests in South Korea and other countries where the women came from.
On Monday, he elaborated, saying there was no evidence of coercion in the strict sense — such as kidnapping — but he acknowledged that brokers procuring women otherwise forced the victims to work as prostitutes. Abe did not explain further.
The U.S. House is considering a nonbinding resolution that would demand a formal acknowledgment and apology from the Japanese government for the brothels.
A House committee heard testimony last month from women who described being taking captive by Japanese authorities and repeatedly raped as so-called “comfort women.”
Abe suggested he did not consider such testimony conclusive evidence.
“There was no testimony ... that had any proof,” he told lawmakers Monday.