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September 24, 2017

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Gov't to ask Japan to say sorry to 'comfort women'

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan is officially to ask Japan to apologize and compensate Taiwanese "comfort women" who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Tuesday after consensus was reached during a cross-agency task force meeting held the same day.

MOFA spokeswoman Eleanor Wang said a cross-agency task force formed to deal with comfort women-related issues convened its first meeting at MOFA's headquarters in Taipei on Tuesday afternoon to come up with a united stance before the government engages in talks with Japan representatives.

Participants in the meeting, including government officials and representatives from local nongovernmental organizations that focus on the issue, reached consensus on four points during the two-hour meeting, Wang said.

These points were "urging the Japanese government to issue a formal apology; getting compensation for Taiwanese comfort women; returning to them the justice and dignity they are long overdue; and taking better care of them," Wang said.

The task force meeting was held after Japan and South Korea reached a deal on Dec. 28 in Seoul under which the Japanese government promised to give around a billion Japanese yen to a foundation set up by the South Korean government for Korean comfort women.

Following the historic deal, MOFA called on Japan to promptly launch bilateral negotiations on the issue in order to compensate victims in Taiwan.

Foreign Minister David Lin (林永樂) previously said Taipei hopes to officially engage in comfort women talks with Tokyo sometime this month.

Before the official meeting, Lin said an internal meeting should be held to come up with a united stance before government talks with Japan.

Official Talks Date Yet to Be Decided

When asked for comment, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga denied that Japan and Taiwan had agreed to officially engage in talks over the issue this month. Chang Jen-joe (張仁久), head of the Association of East Asian Relations (亞東關係協會), said an exact timetable on when to launch the official talks has yet to be decided.

Suga, however, did not say Japan will not engage in talks, according to Chang.

"We will bring the consensus reached during the task force meeting to engage in talks with Japanese counterparts as soon as possible," he noted.

Currently, discussions on the issue are being conducted by his association and its Japanese counterpart, Japan's Interchange Association, Chang said.

The two groups are quasi-official organizations set up by their respective governments to handle bilateral affairs in the absence of official ties.

According to the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation, more than 2,000 Taiwanese women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during the war, but only four of those who have spoken openly about their suffering at the hands of the Japanese forces are still alive today.

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