Abe: US sex slave resolution won't affect bilateral ties

Japan’s ties with the United States will not be hurt if the U.S. passes a resolution urging Japan to officially acknowledge and apologize for wartime sexual slavery, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday.

"I am confident that our bilateral relations are unshakable," Abe said in an interview with Japanese media. "We have confirmed that Japan-U.S. relations are irreplaceable and unshakable."

Abe was responding to a question about the probable diplomatic impact of the passage, expected next Tuesday, of the resolution by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The resolution is then expected to be sent to the full House.

The nonbinding resolution calls for Japan to "formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the women's ordeal. Tokyo objects to the resolution, saying it is not based on historical fact.

Historians say hundreds of thousands of women, mainly from Korea, China and the Philippines, were sent to Japanese military brothels in the 1930s and '40s. Many victims say they were forced to provide sexual services against their will to Japanese soldiers.

After decades of denial, the Japanese government acknowledged its role in wartime prostitution after a historian discovered documents showing government involvement. In 1993 the government issued a carefully worded official apology.

Abe rekindled controversy earlier this year by denying that there was any evidence the women were coerced, apparently backtracking from the earlier apology. Since then, he has distanced himself from the comment, saying he sympathizes with the victims' plight and apologizes for the "situation they found themselves in."