Japan's top government spokesman Hiroyuki Hosoda on Monday played down the education minister's recent remarks praising the removal of references to "comfort women" from the revised history textbooks and reiterated Tokyo's apology to the victims.
"Comfort women" is a euphemism used in Japan to describe women forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in Japan's aggression war against its Asian neighbors before and during World War II.
"We recognize that the issue of so-called 'comfort women' is a problem that tarnished the honor and dignity of many women, and have expressed an apology and remorse for that," Hosoda said at a news conference.
"The problem is not the words but their existence. 'Comfort women' did exist, and the government's position does not change," Hosoda said.
Japanese Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Nariaki Nakayama said in a public address Saturday that there were originally no such words as "comfort women," so it was good that the "incorrect" description was removed from school textbooks.
Nakayam's remarks have been strongly criticized and protested by South Korea, China and many other Asian countries from which many women were forced to serve as "comfort women" for Japanese aggression army during the war.