Japan PM says 'deeply pained' over WWII 'comfort women'29 april 2015, 10:48
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday expressed his remorse over the sexual slavery of Asian women during World War II, but stopped short of issuing his own apology, AFP reports.
"I am deeply pained to think about the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering as a result of victimization due to human trafficking," Abe said at a joint White House press conference with US President Barack Obama.
Mainstream historians say an estimated 200,000 women from Korea, China and other Asian nations were systematically raped by Japan's imperial forces in military brothels.
Abe -- who would like to move beyond Japan's checkered past -- has been under fierce pressure to repeat the apologies of his predecessors.
He has enraged South Korea and China by visiting controversial war shrines.
And some of Abe's right-wing supporters have poured fuel on the fire by alleging some of the women were common prostitutes, and are fighting a vigorous rear-guard battle to alter the narrative
"Japan has apologized and made reparations numerous times in the past," said Shihoko Goto an expert at the Wilson Center.
"But actions and words by officials have essentially cancelled out those apologies; hence the finger-wagging about Japan's sincerity."
South Korean President Park Geun-Hye as recently as Sunday warned "time is running out" for Tokyo to apologize.
Abe and Park have not met for a formal two-way summit since they took power in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
The issue has become a major diplomatic obstacle for Washington.
The White House would like to see better ties between South Korea and Japan, a potential democratic alliance that could serve as a powerful counterbalance to China's rising power.
Abe's reluctance to say sorry may yet become a political problem for Obama.
The Japanese Prime Minister will on Wednesday become the first Japanese prime minister to address a joint session of the US Congress.
Some US lawmakers -- many with large Korean-American constituencies -- have been highly vocal in their demands for an apology.
Congress is currently weighing whether to give Obama the means to reach a trade deal with Japan and 10 other nations in the Pacific.
A tight vote is expected.
This year is the 70th anniversary of World War II.