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In brief: Japanese leader offers ‘condolences’ in speech to Congress

From Wire Reports

Washington – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offered condolences Wednesday for Americans killed in World War II in the first address by a Japanese leader to a joint meeting of Congress, but stopped short of apologizing for wartime atrocities.

Abe came to Capitol Hill after a visit to a Washington memorial to more than 400,000 American service members who died in the conflict. His remarks to a packed chamber a day after meeting President Barack Obama were warmly received by lawmakers.

“My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II,” he said, prompting his audience to rise in applause.

But he skirted another issue that some U.S. lawmakers had also been urging him to address in what is the 70th anniversary year of the end of the war – the sexual slavery of tens of thousands of Asian women by Japan’s military, which remains a sore point with another staunch U.S. ally, South Korea. One of the few dozen surviving Korean victims, Yong Soo-lee, 87, was in the gallery to watch Abe’s address, seated in a wheelchair.

Instead, the Japanese prime minister expressed “feelings of deep remorse over the war.” He acknowledged that “our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries, we must not avert our eyes from that.” That won’t satisfy his critics, who want Abe to do more than “uphold” the apologies for wartime abuses made by his predecessors.

Democratic Rep. Mike Honda, who invited Yong to attend, said it was “shocking and shameful” that Abe was evading his government’s responsibility over atrocities committed by the Imperial Army against so-called “comfort” women.

Diversion of ship to port just business, Iran says

New York – Iranian warships were enforcing a court order against the owner when they diverted a Marshall Islands-registered vessel to an Iranian port, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif asserted Wednesday, denying any link between the incident and regional tensions.

The Maersk Tigris was in safe-passage shipping lanes in Iranian territorial waters in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic waterway between Iran and the United Arab Emirates that links the oil-rich Persian Gulf with the Arabian Sea. About 30 crew members were aboard the Danish-owned container ship, which is registered in the Marshall Islands.

A U.S. Navy vessel and U.S. aircraft monitored the incident, which underscored tensions in the region over Yemen, where Iran is backing rebel forces under attack by a Saudi-led air campaign, and over Syria, where Saudi Arabia is supporting opposition forces against the Iran-backed Assad regime.

Zarif denied that there were any political motives behind the interception, saying it was to enforce an Iranian court order that the Maersk Tigris’ Danish owner pay damages to a private Iranian company.

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