WASHINGTON, June 14 (Xinhua) -- A group of Japanese lawmakers on Thursday denied Japan's forced sex slavery of tens of thousands of Asian women during World War II, in an advertisement published by The Washington Post.
An estimated 200,000 women were forced to serve as sex slaves for Japanese forces during World War II, and most of them came from countries invaded by Japan at that time.
The Japanese Diet members -- including 29 from the Liberal Democratic Party, 13 from the Democratic Party and two Independents -- and some political commentators and journalists, claimed that "no historical document has ever been found ... that positively demonstrate that women were forced against their will into prostitution by the Japanese army," but acknowledged there were cases "of breakdowns in discipline."
One of the cases they cited involved a Japanese army unit which "forcibly rounded up a group of young Dutch women to work at a 'comfort station'" on the island of Semarang in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia).
The Japanese politicians alleged that those women forced into sex slavery were not "sex slaves" but "were working under a system of licensed prostitution."
The denial was the latest by Japanese politicians on the "comfort women" issue this year.
On March 1, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there were no documents to prove the Japanese military had physically coerced women into providing sex for its soldiers during the Second World War, a move that reversed the 1993 Kono statement.
In 1993, then Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued the so-called Kono statement, officially acknowledging and apologizing for Japan setting up and running brothels for its aggressor troops throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s.
"The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion, and we have to take it from there," Abe said.
Abe's remarks sparked widespread furor in Asian countries, victims of Japan's aggression, and drew criticism worldwide, and he was forced to backtrack.
The Japanese prime minister later repeatedly offered apology for the wartime sex slavery and said his government would continue to honor a 1993 apology.
U.S. Representative Mike Honda, a Democrat from California, introduced a resolution early this year that calls upon the Japanese government to make an official and unequivocal apology, and take responsibility, for the Japanese army's role in enslaving tens of thousands of girls and women of Asia as "comfort women" during World War II.
Over 130 House members have cosponsored the resolution.
The House International Relations Committee adopted a resolution in September last year calling on the Japanese government to formally acknowledge and accept responsibility on the issue of "comfort women," but the legislation was not able to reach the House floor for further action during the Republican-controlled 119th Congress.