The House of Representatives foreign affairs committee approved the resolution by 39-2 votes on Tuesday, allowing it to be considered by the full house as early as next month.
More than 140 legislators from both political parties have agreed to co-sponsor the non-binding resolution, which urges Japan to "formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner" for the suffering of the women.
Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house, said she looked forward to the full house "passing this resolution and sending a strong message that we will not forget the horrors endured by the comfort women".
The vote was met with applause in a committee room packed with observers, including surviving Korean comfort women.
|Abe said there was no evidence women were |
forced into brothels, angering many [EPA]
Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, sparked controversy in March by saying there was no evidence the imperial army directly coerced thousands of women into brothels across Asia during the war.
He has since stressed he stands by Japan's 1993 apology to the women and expressed his sympathy for the women during his US visit in April.
Critics contend that Japan, despite the apologies, has never assumed responsibility fully for the treatment of the women.
Abe said Tuesday's congressional panel vote would not affect relations between the allies.
"I am convinced that the Japan-US relations are unshakable as an indispensable alliance," he said.
Some 44 Japanese legislators, including those close to Abe, took out a full-page advertisement in The Washington Post this month denying Japan's military forced women into sexual slavery.
Commenting on the US resolution, Tom Lantos, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said Japan "has actively promoted historical amnesia".
"The facts are plain", he said.
He said the resolution "seeks admission of the horrible truth, in order that this horror may never be perpetrated again".
Supporters of the resolution want an apology similar to the one the US government gave to Japanese-Americans forced into internment camps during the war.
That apology approved by congress and signed into law by Ronald Reagan, the then president, in 1988.
But critics say supporters of the resolution are flogging a dead horse.
Tom Tancredo, a member of the House of Representatives, said: "I wonder how many times we expect a government to apologise for the sins of an imperial government of the past.
"Asking the Japanese government to take historical responsibility for atrocities of the defunct imperial-era government is somewhat counterproductive and unfair to the people of Japan."