Virginia Villarma, a Filipino woman of 78, said: "We are the living victims and witnesses. How can we be prostitutes then when we were so young and innocent ... we are telling Abe that what he said was wrong. He is a liar."

 

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"The whole world should show Japan distaste for such inhumane declarations that exacerbate and renew pains of the surviving victims"

Adolfo Talpalar, Stockholm, Sweden

 

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The women protested along with about 20 relatives and supporters from Lila Pilipina, an organisation of wartime sex slaves and women's rights activists.

 

Franklin Ebdalin, the Philippines' foreign affairs undersecretary, urged Tokyo on Monday to adhere to the language and tone of both the 1993 apology made by the then chief cabinet secretary, Yohei Kono, regarding wartime sexual slavery, and a 2002 letter of apology sent by the former prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, to Filipina so-called "comfort women".

 

International outrage

 

Li Zhaoxing, the Chinese foreign minister, denounced the use of "comfort women" as "one of the serious crimes committed by Japanese militarists during the second World War".


"This is a historical fact," Li told a press conference during China's annual legislative session.

 

The Japanese government "should stand up to this part of history, take responsibility and seriously view and properly handle this issue," he said.

 

Abe's statement triggered international outrage and contradicted evidence in the latest development is likely to hinder efforts to smooth over relations between China and Japan, which had been improving following a fence-mending visit to Beijing in October by Abe - the first senior-level summit between the two powers in five years.

 

"History, in my view, is a strong progressive force," Li said. "It should not become a burden to the progression of peace."