Japan to Probe WWII Military Brothels

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that ruling party lawmakers will conduct a fresh investigation into the Japanese military's use of brothels during World War II.

The government is ready to cooperate with the investigation by providing government documents, Abe told a group of reporters.

Abe triggered outrage across Asia last week by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. He said on Monday that Japan will not apologize again for the Japanese military's "comfort stations."

The top government spokesman said earlier Thursday that Japan's position on the coercion of women into sex slavery during WWII had been misinterpreted and misrepresented by the U.S. media, and that Tokyo would soon issue a rebuttal.

"My remarks have been twisted in a sense and reported overseas, which further invites misunderstanding," Abe said. "This is an extremely unproductive situation."

The comments last week came as the U.S. House of Representatives was considering a resolution that urges Japan to formally apologize for its wartime brothels. Japanese leaders apologized in 1993 for the government's role, but the apology was not approved by Parliament.

Abe said Thursday that he "basically stands by the 1993 apology."

Historians say thousands of girls and women in Asia — as many as 200,000 by some accounts — were kidnapped and forced into providing sex for Japanese troops during World War II.

But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for any abuses. The government also has questioned the figure of 200,000 women.

Abe's comments have incensed critics in China, North and South Korea, and the Philippines, who have demanded Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

"We hope that Japan can show courage, take a responsible attitude toward history," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Thursday during a regular news briefing.