|Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe speaks during a news conference
at the premier's official residence in Tokyo March 27, 2007.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he stands by a landmark 1993 apology
issued to thousands of women forced into prostitution by Japan's military during
World War II, in a phone call to U.S. President George W. Bush.
Abe spoke with Bush for about 20 minutes late Tuesday as his government
prepares for his visit the United States in late April, the Foreign Ministry
said in a statement.
The premier spurred a wave of outrage around the region in early March by
suggesting there was no proof the Imperial government or military coerced women
into the brothels, apparently
backtracking from Tokyo's 1993
apology for having forced women into sexual slavery during World War II.
Abe told Bush that he continues to support the apology, saying his true
intent and statements were not correctly reported in the media, the Ministry
"I am deeply sympathetic to the former comfort
women who suffered hardships, and I have expressed my apologies
over the extremely agonizing circumstances into which they were placed," the
statement quoted Abe as saying.
Bush told Abe that he appreciated his candor and noted that Japan today is
not the Japan of World War II, National Security Council spokesman Gordon
Johndroe said in Washington on Tuesday.
The two leaders also discussed the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear
program and agreed on the need to hold Pyongyang to the timetable in the
agreement reached February 13, the ministry said.
Abe added that he was grateful for Washington's support of Tokyo's stance to
press the North over its abductions of Japanese citizens in the 1970s and 1980s,
Bush also thanked Abe for Japan's continued commitment of forces to Iraq,
Last week, Japan's parliament approved a two-year extension of its airlift
mission in support of Iraqi reconstruction.
Tokyo has backed the U.S.-led Iraq invasion and provided troops for a
non-combat, humanitarian mission in the southern city of Samawah beginning in
Japan withdrew its ground troops
in July 2006, and has since expanded its Kuwait-based air operations.
ground troops: 地面部队