The US House of Representatives on Monday approved a resolution urging Japan to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the suffering of "comfort women".
"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 Michael M. Honda, a California Democrat who led the non-binding resolution.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, however, termed the resolution regrettable because the country had "already made amends".
"The resolution is regrettable," Abe said. "I explained my views and the government's response (to US authorities) on this matter during my visit to the US in April."
Historians say the Imperial Japanese Army forcibly sent hundreds of thousands of women, mainly from Korea, China and the Philippines, to its military's brothels in the 1930s and 1940s.
After the Japanese government in the early 1990s acknowledged the practise, its leaders have repeatedly apologized over the issue.
But in March, Abe triggered anger across Asia by saying there was no proof that the women were forced into prostitution, reflecting a view among Japan's right-wing politicians who allege that the issue has been fabricated or exaggerated.
Chinese scholars yesterday welcomed the resolution, saying it was good that the US, which along with Chinese troops fought the Japanese in World War II, has broken its silence on the issue.
"On the issue of 'comfort women' Japanese right-wing forces and some politicians have always blundered by trying to act too smart. But their attempts to hide a historical fact has made their misdeeds more obvious," said Jin Linbo, a senior researcher with the China Institute of International Studies.
"A long-term silence by the US on the 'comfort women' issue was quite strange. After all, it played an important role in the anti-Fascist war and helped China fight against the invasion of Japan," he said.
In South Korea, presidential spokesman Cheon Ho-sun, too, welcomed the resolution and urged Japan to face up to history.
"The best way of reconciliation is to view history correctly. Japan would not be unaware of this," Cheon said during a regular briefing.
International relations expert with the China Institute of International Studies Shen Shishun said: "The resolution will not affect Japan-American strategic ties, though it is viewed as a diplomatic failure by some Japanese who have always opposed granting compensation for their war crimes."
Source: Agencies - China Daily