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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Japanese Prime Minister Says Sorry for Slaves

TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, under fire for denying that Japan forced women to work as sex slaves during World War II, offered a fresh apology Monday but refused to acknowledge clearly Japan's responsibility for the front-line brothels.

"I express my sympathy toward the comfort women and apologize for the situation they found themselves in," Abe told a parliamentary debate, using a euphemism used by Japanese politicians to refer to former sex slaves.

"I apologize here and now as prime minister," he said.

Abe's apology was his clearest yet since the conservative leader triggered international furor earlier this month by saying there was no evidence that women were coerced into sexual service during the war.

Still, his remarks fall short of victims' demands for Abe to acknowledge that the military forced the women into prostitution.

Historians say as many as 200,000 Asian women, mostly from Korea and China, worked in military-run brothels. Victims say they were forced into the brothels by the Japanese military and were held against their will.

Abe's earlier denial of coercion drew intense criticism from Beijing and Seoul, which accuse Tokyo of failing to atone fully for wartime invasions and atrocities.

The issue also has stirred debate in the United States, where a committee in the House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution calling on Tokyo to fully acknowledge wrongdoing and make an unambiguous apology.