A group of U.S. lawmakers on Friday protested Japan's review of a 1993 apology for its sexual enslavement of Korean women during World War II, saying it is "unacceptable" for Tokyo to suggest it remains unconfirmed the victims were coerced.
The 18 House of Representatives members, led by Rep. Mike Honda, also said in a jointly signed letter to the Japanese ambassador to Washington, Kenichiro Sasae, that they found the timing and the release of the contents of the report both "regrettable and unfortunate."
They said the review drew unnecessary attention away from the plight of surviving victims of the atrocity.
"The report's findings suggest that the coercion by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces of the 'comfort women' remains unconfirmed. This is unacceptable," the lawmakers said in the letter.
"The comfort women are dying by the day, and they deserve every measure of dignity and respect."
The issue is a "matter of fundamental women's rights and human rights," they said.
Last week, Japan announced the result of its review of the 1993 apology, known as the Kono Statement, saying Seoul and Tokyo had fine-tuned the wording of the apology. Though Japan said it still stands by the apology, the review was seen as an attempt to undermine its credibility.
The U.S. lawmakers urged Tokyo not to revise the statement.
"In his public statement following the release of the report, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshida Suga repeated that the Japanese government will not revise the Kono statement," they said in the letter. "We wish to affirm this commitment and ask that you do all you can to ensure that it will not be altered."
They also said that it is important for Japan to resolve the sexual slavery issue in order to forge ahead with an enhanced trilateral relationship with South Korea and the U.S.
"It is our fervent hope that in addressing the suffering of the comfort women, the government of Japan will move forward in a responsible and unequivocal manner," they said.