WASHINGTON — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sought Thursday to explain to U.S. lawmakers a March comment that seemed to minimize Japan's role in forcing thousands of Asian women into sexual slavery during World War II.
Abe's first U.S. trip as prime minister comes as lawmakers consider a nonbinding resolution that urges Japan to apologize formally for its role in coercing women to serve as "comfort women" for Japan's military.
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said Abe "expressed regret that his comments were not as he intended for them to be and expressed great sympathy with people who had been placed in that kind of situation."
Abe's suggestion in March that there was no proof that Japan's military had forced women into brothels drew widespread criticism.
President Bush and his wife, Laura, walked across Pennsylvania Avenue to call on Abe and his wife, Akie, at Blair House, the guest residence. They then strolled four abreast to the White House for an informal dinner.
"Nice day for a walk," Bush said, though a cloudy sky threatened rain.
Bush and Abe planned talks today at the Camp David retreat in Maryland.