The time has come for the Japanese government to address the issue of the nation's wartime atrocities against many Korean and other Asian women, a senior U.S. congressman said Thursday.
Rep. Mike Honda urged Tokyo first to offer a formal apology to those who were forced into sexual servitude during World War II, euphemistically called "comfort women."
"It is time for the Japanese government to make a comprehensive apology and redress the grievances sought by the hundreds of thousands of women who were victimized under this cruel system," he said in a statement emailed to Yonhap News Agency.
He added, "For the women still alive, and for the countless who have passed, official recognition and acknowledgement is the only way to bring proper closure to this terrible chapter of World War II history.”
Honda, the grandson of Japanese immigrants, spearheaded an effort to include language on the matter into a spending bill for 2014 that passed the House Wednesday.
A document attached to the bill calls on the secretary of state to encourage the Japanese government to comply with a 2007 resolution on the matter.
The 2007 House Resolution 121, sponsored by Honda, calls on the Japanese government to deliver an apology for the sexual enslavement.
It is the first time that the comfort women issue has been included in U.S. legislation, although the related stipulation is nonbinding.
Honda said he "fought hard" to get the language in the bill as a member of the Appropriations Committee. He has been serving in Congress since 2001.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has drawn criticism from not only people in South Korea and China but also a number of American lawmakers since paying tribute at the Yasukuni Shrine in December. The shrine honors 2.5 million war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals.
Meanwhile, the State Department gave no immediate response to the bill, which is still pending at the Senate.
Speaking at a daily press briefing, the department's spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, just reiterated Washington's call for dialogue among major Northeast Asian nations to resolve history and territorial disputes.
"We continue to encourage all sides to refrain from taking actions that would be provocative," she said.
She would not comment on South Korea's reported plan to join hands with China and several other Asian nations in a bid to obtain U.N. world documentary heritage status for comfort women.
Historians estimate as many as 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II. (Yonhap News)