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Japan to Offer Compensation for Women Used as Sex Slaves

By Sam Jameson
Los Angeles Times
TOKYO

Japan will announce Wednesday a 10-year, $1 billion program to indirectly compensate women used as "sex slaves" by Japanese solders and other individuals who were victimized by Japan's World War II aggression, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama will make the announcement and his Chief Cabinet Secretary Kozo Igarashi will spell out the details, the official said.

Designed to launch a year-long period of self-reflection on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Japan's defeat, the announcement will mark a reversal of decades of postwar diplomatic efforts to avoid any form of accepting responsibility for acts against individuals in Japan's war with China, which began in 1931, and World War II.

It is an outgrowth of an order that former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa issued after the 38-year rule of the Liberal Democratic Party ended last August. Hosokawa told the Foreign Ministry to develop a comprehensive package resolving all issues left over World War II.

Disagreements over details within the Japanese bureaucracy forced Murayama to hold off announcement of the measures before departing last Tuesday on a four-nation Southeast Asian trip. He will return later Tuesday.

Clearing up doubts about Japan's consciousness of its past is regarded by many - although not all - Japanese leaders as necessary to open the door to an active foreign policy in Asia.

Although governments run by Liberal Democrat, during 38 years of rule that lasted until 1993, expressed regrets for suffering Japan caused during the war, no prime minister until Hosokawa ever admitted that Japan's war in Asia was "a war of aggression."

Even Hosokawa later toned down that comment to say Japan's war had been filled with "aggressive acts," implying that not all of the war constituted aggression.

Since May, two Cabinet ministers were forced to resign after denying that Japan had committed aggression during the war.