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Japan to scrutinize U.N. recommendation on “comfort women”

TOKYO — The Japanese government said Friday it will scrutinize a U.N. body’s recommendation urging Tokyo to apologize and pay compensation to “comfort women” who were forced to work in Japan’s World War II military brothels.


The issue was included in a total of 218 non-legally binding recommendations on Japan’s human rights record adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council’s working group on Thursday in Geneva.


“Generally speaking, the preliminary report tends to list remarks and recommendations by only a few countries or regions,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a press conference.


The comfort women issue — a source of diplomatic conflict between Tokyo and Seoul as many of the women were from the Korean Peninsula — was raised at the request of South Korea and China.


The Japanese government top spokesman said Tokyo had countered the two countries’ claims for inclusion of the issue and explained its stance at the council’s Universal Periodic Review Working Group on Tuesday. Japan touched on a 2015 landmark Japan-South Korea agreement on the women, in which the two countries agreed the matter was “resolved finally and irreversibly,” he said.


Suga also said Japan will examine the contents of the interim report and deal with it “in an appropriate manner.”


The working group also called on Japan to take measures to protect the freedom of the press amid concerns that laws aimed at curtailing leaks of state secrets could impede the work of journalists. The issue’s inclusion was requested by the United States and others.


In Geneva on Thursday, Yoshifumi Okamura, Japan’s ambassador in charge of human rights who attended the working group, said he personally believes there is nothing to be ashamed of regarding the situation of freedom of the press in the country.


The recommendations became a “good opportunity to demonstrate to the international community the fact that freedom and human rights are guaranteed” under Japan’s Constitution, Okamura said.


The U.N. council will adopt recommendations that have been accepted by the country in question at a plenary session around March next year. The examination is conducted on all 193 members of the United Nations in periodic cycles of a few years and the latest review was the third for Japan.

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