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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 March 2007, 14:43 GMT
Japan party probes sex slave use
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. File photo
Last week's remarks by Mr Abe angered China and South Korea
Japan's ruling party will hold a new inquiry into the use of sex slaves by the Japanese army during World War II, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said.

The study follows calls by some 130 MPs from Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic Party for the issue to be reviewed.

Tokyo apologised in 1993 for its role in setting up army brothels, but the MPs believe the apology went too far.

Mr Abe last week publicly questioned whether "comfort women" - mainly Chinese and Korean - were coerced.

His remarks angered neighbouring China and South Korea.

Many historians say Japan compelled up to 200,000 women to become sex slaves during the war.

But some Japanese scholars deny that force was used to round up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses.

US Congress debate

"The party [the LDP] will conduct the research," Mr Abe told reporters in Tokyo.

"The government will co-operate as needed by providing materials," he said.

Earlier, the prime minister rejected a call from about 130 LDP lawmakers for the government itself to commission the inquiry into the controversial issue.

The MPs are demanding that Tokyo water down its statement of apology to the comfort women.

Mr Abe last week angered Beijing and Seoul with remarks that appeared to question Japan's role in forcing the women to work in the army brothels.

However, Mr Abe said he stood by the 1993 apology, which acknowledged that the military set up and ran brothels for its troops during the war.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said Japan should face up to history and take responsibility for its army's use of sex slaves.

South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon described Mr Abe's remarks as "not helpful".

The US House of Representatives is currently considering a non-binding resolution calling on Tokyo to "formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility" for the treatment of the women.

Many former comfort women are still seeking compensation from the Japanese government for their experiences.

Tokyo did set up a compensation fund in 1995, but it relies on private donations rather than government money.

China raps Japan over sex slaves
06 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
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05 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Sex slave denial angers S Korea
03 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Abe questions sex slave 'coercion'
02 Mar 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan anger at US sex slave bill
19 Feb 07 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan WWII sex slave redress call
12 Mar 05 |  Asia-Pacific


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