"The longer this discussion goes on, the more misunderstandings there are likely to be"

Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary

Yasuhisa Shiozaki, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, said the government stood by the 1993 statement, "including its recognition of coercion".

"Recent comments by the prime minister show this stance will not change," he said.

The 1993 apology - called the "Kono Statement" after Yohei Kono, the then chief cabinet secretary - acknowledged the Imperial Army's role in forming and running wartime brothels, as well as holding the women against their will.

"The government continues to support the Kono statement," Shiozaki said.

Historians say up to 200,000 thousands of "comfort women" from across Asia were forced to work in Japanese military brothels in the 1930s and '40s.

Anger

Abe's refusal to apologise again over the issue has stirred anger in China, Taiwan and South Korea, who have been calling for Japan to atone for its past.

Japan says Abe's remarks do not
detract from the 1993 apology [Reuters]
On Monday, Abe touched off additional protests by saying Japan would not apologise again even if members of the US congress adopted a resolution calling for an apology.

Politicians in the US House of Representatives have recently been hearing testimony from witnesses as they consider a non-binding resolution that would demand a formal acknowledgment and apology from the Japanese government for the brothels.

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Commenting on the possible resolution Shiozaki said "parts of the resolution are not based on objective fact" and he said it "does not include what the government has done up to now".

"The longer this discussion goes on, the more misunderstandings there are likely to be," he said.

Documentary evidence uncovered in 1992 showed the Japanese military had a direct role in running the brothels.

Victims, witnesses and even former Japanese soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as prostitutes.

However, several prominent Japanese scholars and politicians have denied that the Japanese military was directly involved or used force to round up the women, saying private contractors were to blame for any abuses.