Japan's Abe: No Proof of WWII Sex Slaves
Thursday, March 1, 2007; 10:37 PM
TOKYO -- Yasuji Kaneko, 87, still remembers the screams of the countless women he raped in China as a soldier in the Japanese imperial army in World War II. Some were teenagers from Korea serving as sex slaves in military-run brothels. Others were women in villages he and his comrades pillaged in eastern China.
"They cried out, but it didn't matter to us whether the women lived or died," Kaneko said in an interview with The Associated Press at his Tokyo home. "We were the emperor's soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance."
Historians say some 200,000 women _ mostly from Korea and China _ served in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops, and the top government spokesman acknowledged the wrongdoing in 1993.
Now some in Japan's government are questioning whether the apology was needed.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday denied women were forced into military brothels across Asia, boosting renewed efforts by right-wing politicians to push for an official revision of the apology.
"The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion," Abe said.
Abe's remarks contradicted evidence in Japanese documents unearthed in 1992 that historians said showed military authorities had a direct role in working with contractors to forcibly procure women for the brothels.
The comments were certain to rile South Korea and China, which accuse Tokyo of failing to fully atone for wartime atrocities. Abe's government has been recently working to repair relations with Seoul and Beijing.
The statement came just hours after South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun marked a national holiday honoring the anniversary of a 1919 uprising against Japanese colonial rule by urging Tokyo to come clean about its past.
Roh also referred to hearings held by the U.S. House of Representatives last month on a resolution urging Japan to "apologize for and acknowledge" the imperial army's use of sex slaves during the war.
"The testimony reiterated a message that no matter how hard the Japanese try to cover the whole sky with their hand, there is no way that the international community would condone the atrocities committed during Japanese colonial rule," Roh said.
Dozens of people rallied outside the Japanese Embassy in Seoul to mark the anniversary, lining up dead dogs' heads on the ground with pieces of paper in their mouths listing names of Koreans who allegedly collaborated with the Japanese during its 1910-45 colonial rule. Protest organizers said the animals were slaughtered at a restaurant; dogs are regularly consumed as food in Korea.