In a move viewed as a public censure to Japan, the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday unanimously passed a bill to demand Japan's apology on the issue of "comfort women."
The resolution, passed the full House by a voice vote without objection, urged the Japanese government to acknowledge formally and accept responsibility for the sexual exploitation of "comfort women" by the Japanese military during World War II.
"Today, the House will send a message to the government of Japan that it should deliver an official, unequivocal, unambiguous apology for the indignity the comfort women suffered," said Rep. Mike Honda, (D-Calif.), an American of Japanese descent who pushed the bill in the House.
Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) said the H.R. 121 resolution "seeks admission of the horrible truth, in order that this horror may never be perpetrated again."
"Inhumane deeds should be fully acknowledged," he said.
Citing post-war Germany as a contrast, Lantos criticized Japan for continuously promoting "historical amnesia."
"The world awaits a full reckoning of history from the Japanese government," he added.
Lee Yong-soo, a surviving "comfort woman" who testified before Congress in February, was present when the House adopted the bill.
There is no comment from the Japanese Embassy in Washington, which said there will be an official response from Tokyo later in the day.
The resolution, which was adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee June 26, says the "government of Japan should formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces' coercion of young women into sexual slavery, known to the world as 'comfort women.'"
It also urges the Japanese Prime Minister to make a public apology, calling on the Japanese government to refute any claims that the episode never happened and wanting future generations to be told of "this horrible crime."
An estimated 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves, known as "comfort women," for Japanese forces during World War II, and most of them came from countries invaded by Japan at that time.