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Taiwan decides on approach to talks with Japan on comfort women

ROC Central News Agency

2016/01/05 23:11:57

Taipei, Jan. 5 (CNA) The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and several government agencies on Tuesday devised an approach to planned negotiations with Japan on the issue of 'comfort women,' females who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories during World War II.

After a two-hour meeting, a working group that comprised officials from several relevant government agencies and a women's rights group agreed that Taiwan will ask Japan to issue a formal apology to Taiwanese comfort women, offer compensation to the surviving women, and restore their reputation, the foreign ministry said.

The decision followed Foreign Minister David Lin's (林永樂) comments last week that Japan is willing to negotiate with Taiwan on the comfort women issue, and that talks will start in January in Tokyo.

Tuesday's planning meeting was convened by Deputy Foreign Minister Bruce Linghu (令狐榮達) and attended by members of the Association of East Asian Relations under the Foreign Ministry, officials from the ministries of culture, health and welfare and education, and representatives of the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation, which has been dedicated for more than 20 years to helping Taiwanese comfort women.

The meeting was held a day ahead of schedule after Japan indicated that it did not intend to resolve the comfort women issue with other countries the same way it did with South Korea.

Presidential Office spokesman Charles Chen (陳以信) reiterated Tuesday that Japan should offer a formal apology and compensation to Taiwanese comfort women.

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has given a directive to Taiwan's representative office in Tokyo to step up communication with Japan and seek the same treatment for Taiwanese victims that Japan offered to South Koreans, Chen added.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister David Lin said that Taiwan and Japan have communicated each other on the issue through diplomatic channels.

On Monday, Vice Foreign Minister Linhu met Japan's representative to Taiwan Mikio Mumata, while Taiwan's representative to Japan Shen Ssu-tsun (沈斯淳) held talks with senior officials of the Interchange Association of Japan in Tokyo, the minister revealed, adding that the Japanese side said that they will take a flexible manner in dealing with this issue.

In recent talks in Seoul with South Korea, Japan agreed to apologize to that country's 'comfort women' and donate around 1 billion Japanese yen to a foundation set up by the South Korean government for the victims.

But on Monday, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga indicated on Japanese TV that his government does not intend to resolve the 'comfort women' issue with other countries and regions in the same way that it did with South Korea.

At a press conference Tuesday, Suga said Japan has so far faced the 'comfort women' dispute with other countries in an honest manner.

When asked about Taiwan's demand for a formal apology over the issue, Suga declined to divulge the details of the planned negotiations with Taipei.

In response, Chang Jen-joe (張仁久), secretary-general of the Association of East Asian Relations, said Tuesday in Taipei that the Foreign Ministry will continue to communicate with Japan on the issue.

Kang Shu-hua (康淑華), executive director of the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation, which assists Taiwanese comfort women, told CNA that it does not think the Japanese government sincerely wants to resolve the matter.

The most important thing is for Japan to apologize and try to restore the reputation of the women, Kang said, adding that monetary compensation comes second.

The term 'comfort women' euphemistically describes women from around East Asia who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.

According to the foundation, the women included 2,000 Taiwanese, 58 of whom later came forward to seek compensation and a formal apology from Japan. Only four of them are still alive, the foundation said.

Despite the foundation's annual protests and repeated calls for an apology and compensation for Taiwanese comfort women, Japan has never given a positive response.

With the assistance of the foundation, a group of Taiwanese comfort women have unsuccessfully filed several lawsuits in Tokyo against the Japanese government since 1999.

(By Tang Pei-chun and Elaine Hou)

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