The UN has urged Japan to educate its citizens about how the Imperial Army forced Korean and other Asian women to serve as sex slaves for troops during World War II.
The move sends a pointed signal amid a lurch to the right by the Japanese government and persistent attempts to whitewash the country's wartime atrocities.
The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in a report on its website on Tuesday voiced "concern" over the violation of the rights of the former sex slaves. The CESCR urged Tokyo to guarantee the "economic, social and cultural rights" of the women, who are euphemistically referred to as "comfort women" in Japan.
It warned against "hate speech" by rightwingers accusing the women of having been voluntary prostitutes, a line many Japanese rightwingers espouse.
The UNCESCR was established in 1966 to monitor the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Experts from 18 countries including Russia and China are involved.
Although it has no legally binding mandate, UN member nations are required to report to the committee on how they are abiding by its recommendations.
The CESCR's report comes in a week when Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said that other armies including Korea's have habitually used women to solve "the problem of sex on the battlefield," though the review was conducted before his outburst.
A Foreign Ministry official here said the CESCR's recommendation should be viewed as a warning to Japan after years of distorting its history. Japan's Asahi Shimbun daily on Tuesday said the CESCR singled out a Japanese rock band that sent the victims a CD with a song calling them "prostitutes," in polite translation.