U.S. House panel OKs bill to seek Japan’s apology on “comfort women”

By Xinhua

Washington : A U.S. House panel overwhelmingly passed a bill on Tuesday, urging Japan to acknowledge formally and accept responsibility for the sexual exploitation of "comfort women" by the Japanese military during World War II.

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    The measure, passed on a 39-2 vote in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is now allowed to proceed to a full House vote.

    The passage was greeted by cheers from supporters of bill who crowded the room of House Foreign Affairs Committee.

    The Amnesty International applauded the vote, and urged the full House to pass the measure.

    "Amnesty International urges nations across the world to follow the U.S. Congress's lead and put pressure on the Japanese government to ensure that survivors receive full reparation including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation," according to a statement from the organization.

    Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Lantos (D-Calif.),said the H.R. 121 resolution "seeks admission of the horrible truth, in order that this horror may never be perpetrated again."

    He criticized the Japanese government for continuously promoting "historical amnesia," although "the facts are plain."

    The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), says the "government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces' coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as 'comfort women.'"

    It also urges the Japanese Prime Minister to make a public apology, calling on the Japanese government to refute any claims that the episode never happened and wanting future generations to be told of "this horrible crime."

After Tuesday's vote, attention will shift to whether the bill will be put to a vote on the full floor of the House.

Honda said the resolution could be voted on in the full House in mid-July.

    An estimated 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves, known as "comfort women," for Japanese forces during World War II, and most of them came from countries invaded by Japan at that time.

    However, many Japanese politicians have been constantly denying the crime.

    Earlier this month, a group of Japanese politicians and academics put an ad in The Washington Post, saying there is no proof women were forced into sexual enslavement.

    The move backfired and sparked furors in many Asian countries and Asian communities in the United States.

    U.S. congressional sources said after the incident, many U.S. lawmakers who were ambivalent about the resolution now support it.

    Honda said the resolution now has over 140 cosponsors in the House.

    "Now there is more support for the measure than ever," said a congressional source, who asked not to be quoted by name.