U.S. Ambassador to Japan J. Thomas Schieffer described comfort women as the victims of rape by the Japanese military during World War II, according to the New York Times on Saturday.
The U.S. daily reported that the ambassador in a meeting with reporters on Friday “described as ‘credible witnesses’ former comfort women who recently testified in Congress about being coerced into prostitution by the Japanese authorities.” He was also cited as saying, “I take the word of the women that testified.”
“I think they were coerced to engage in prostitution. That means that they were raped by the Japanese military at that point in time,” Schieffer said. “I think that happened, and I think it was a regrettable, terrible thing that it happened. I think the events speak for themselves.”
NYT also reported that Schieffer “hoped that the Japanese government ‘would not back away’ from a 1993 statement that acknowledged and apologized for Japan’s brutal mistreatment of the comfort women.” According to the NYT, Japan’s official denial that the Japanese military directly forced women into sexual slavery during World War II has caused a furor not only in Asia but also in the U.S.
Meanwhile, Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he was “unpleasantly surprised” to hear of the Japanese cabinet’s statement that there was no evidence that Japan directly forced women to serve as sex slaves. The Dutch minister said that he has instructed his foreign minister to summon the Japanese ambassador to explain Japan’s position. Dutch women living in the Dutch colony of Indonesia were taken by the Japanese military to serve as comfort women during the war.