China presses Japan on wartime sex slavery issue

June 3, 2014

BEIJING (Yonhap) — China called on Japan Tuesday to resolve long-running grievances regarding Asian women forced to serve as sexual slaves by the Japanese military during World War II, calling the wartime sexual enslavement a “terrible crime against humanity.”

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei made the remarks when asked about a conference in Tokyo on Monday, during which Asian victims of the wartime sexual slavery demanded that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally apologize.

“The forced recruitment into prostitution is a terrible crime against humanity committed by Japanese militarists against Asian people during World War II,” Hong said.

“We urge the Japanese side to face up to and profoundly reflect upon its history of aggression, respect the dignity of the victims and deal with the relevant issue in a responsible and proper manner,” Hong said.

Historians say up to 200,000 women from Korea, China and other Asian nations were coerced into sexual servitude at front-line Japanese brothels during the war. Those sex slaves were euphemistically called “comfort women.”

Japan’s nationalist politicians, including Abe, have drawn criticism by arguing that there is no evidence that the women were coerced by the then Japanese government.

Last week, Abe’s government said it would set up a panel to review historical facts that led to a 1993 apology by then Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono.

The so-called “Kono Statement” acknowledges that the Imperial Japanese Army was involved to some extent in the recruitment of women to serve in front-line brothels.

South Korea has pressed Japan to address long-running grievances by the victims of wartime sex slavery by extending a formal apology and providing compensation to them. But Japan has refused to do so, saying the matter was settled by a 1965 treaty that normalized relations between the two countries.

Time is running out for those aging victims in South Korea, with only 55 remaining alive today. Their average age is 88.

 

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