Taiwan leader Ma Ying-jeou yesterday urged Japan to apologize for using sex slaves from across Asia during World War II.
Ma made the call at a conference in Taiwan on sexual slavery attended by women from Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines who had been forced into sex slavery by the Japanese military during the war.
"Historical mistakes can be forgiven, but the lessons of history should not be forgotten," Ma said. "I feel that such an apology and compensation can sometimes be (most powerful)."
Time is running out as the number of surviving sex slaves - referred to as "comfort women" by Japan during the war - is falling rapidly due to old age.
In Taiwan, a movement advocating the rights of former comfort women emerged two decades ago, when a total of 58 former sex slaves came forward, but the number is now down to eight.
Historians say up to 400,000 young women, mostly from South Korea but also from China's mainland and Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines, were forced to serve as sex slaves in Japanese army brothels.
About half of them were from the Chinese mainland. Shanghai had more than 140 such army brothels, out of at least 10,000 in total across the mainland, experts have said.
The issue of a Japanese apology for using sex slaves is a long-running and contentious one.
In a landmark 1993 statement, then chief Japanese government spokesman Yohei Kono apologized to former comfort women and acknowledged Japan's involvement in causing their suffering.
But in remarks in 2007 that triggered a region-wide uproar, then Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there was no evidence that Japan directly forced women to work as sex slaves.