Los Angeles

Protesters Press for WWII Apology from Japan Prime Minister

Seeking acknowledgement of a World War II atrocity, hundreds of protesters rallied in downtown Los Angeles Friday while Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was in the city on the final leg of a US visit that included meeting with President Obama and addressing a joint session of Congress.

The protestors seek a formal apology for Japan's role in human trafficking that resulted in the exploitation of young females as sex slaves, euphemistically known as "comfort women."

A second group of demonstrators voiced opposition to the proposed free trade agreeement known as the Trans Pacific Partnership.  Organized labor worries about impact on US jobs. 

Activists gathered in Pershing Square, across Olive Street from the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, where Abe was the honored guest and speaker at a luncheon attended by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and members of organizations credited with strengthening the US-Japan relationship,  a crucial alliance for both nations in the 70 years since the end of World War Two.

Abe previously has acknowledged "deep remorse" over the human trafficking that occurred during the 1930's and world war two, when Japan occupied Korea and portions of China.  It is believed 50 are still alive, including one woman, now a grandmother, living in Los Angeles.

"If he meets with her, holds her hand and says, 'I'm sorry,' that will be sufficient.  That is what she wants," said Young Kim of Fullerton, a member of the state assembly who has been outspoken on the issue.

Many of the demonstrators wore symbolic masks with an X over their mouths to mock what it sees as the Japanese government's efforts to end avoid discussion of the issue.  It did not come up during Abe's remarks at the luncheon.

Instead he focused on further deeping the alliance between Japan and the United States.

"I call this alliance  an alliance of hope, an alliance capable of dealing with global issues," said Abe, speaking mainly in Japanese.

Garcetti and Abe both made mention of a bond they share from experiences in their education. During high school, Garcetti traveled to Japan to study for a year outside Tokyo.  During the late 1970's, Abe studied in Los Angeles.

Later in the afternoon, Abe attended an economic forum, and visited a monument inscribed with the names of more than 16-thousand soldiers of Japanese ancestry who served during World War Two in the US armed forces.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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