Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declined to issue an apology for some his country's controversial actions during World War II in his historic address to Congress Wednesday, despite pressure from lawmakers.

Abe did express condolences for American lives lost during World War II and, separately, urge progress on negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership to bolster trade.

Many members of Congress had urged Abe in the days preceding his address to use the platform to apologize for Japanese soldiers' use of "comfort women" who were often kidnapped from Korea.


Rep. Mike HondaMichael (Mike) Makoto HondaYoung insurgents aren't rushing to Kennedy's side in Markey fight Ex-congressman launching PAC to defend Dem seats in 2020 Silicon Valley lawmaker backs Apple in terror case MORE (D-Calif.), a Japanese-American, brought a Korean former "comfort woman" as his guest in the House visitors' gallery.

Honda, who sat prominently along the House chamber's center aisle, pointedly declined to stand or applaud for parts of Abe's speech.

Abe only hinted at Japan's history of "comfort women" in his address but presented it as an issue from which his country has moved on.

"Armed conflicts have always made women suffer the most. In our age, we must realize the kind of world where finally women are free from human rights abuses," Abe said.

Honda did stand up with other lawmakers after Abe delivered that line but did not join the applause.

Abe has said he stands behind the 1993 Kono statement, in which Japan offered its "sincere apologies and remorse to all those, irrespective of place of origin, who suffered immeasurable pain and incurable physical and psychological wounds as comfort women."

"Post war, we started out on our path bearing in mind feelings of deep remorse over the war. Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries. We must not avert our eyes from that. I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard," Abe said.

He recalled a visit to the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., during his state visit this week. The first Japanese prime minister in history to address a joint meeting of Congress expressed sorrow for the American lives lost in World War II. 

"History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone," Abe said. "With deep repentance in my heart, I stood there in silent prayers for some time."

"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.

On trade, the prime minister sounded a positive tone on the negotiations over the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is part of the U.S. pivot to the Pacific Rim. 

Negotiators are aiming to wrap up work on the agreement sometime this spring. 

He prodded the United States and Japan to take the lead to “build a market that is fair, dynamic, sustainable, and is also free from the arbitrary intentions of any nation.”

"In the Pacific market, we cannot overlook sweat shops or burdens on the environment. Nor can we simply allow free riders on intellectual property," the Japanese leader said.

However, Abe acknowledged the process remains ongoing.

"Japan will not run away from any reforms," he said." We keep our eyes only on the road ahead and push forward with structural reforms."

Abe and President Obama said Tuesday that the United States and Japan are narrowing their differences on tough issues, including autos and agriculture, and they hope to reach an agreement soon. 

"As for U.S.-Japan negotiations, the goal is near," Abe said. "Let us bring the TPP to a successful conclusion through our joint leadership."

Issues on market access for autos and agriculture remain between two of the world’s largest economies.

Abe said that as a young man, “like a ball of fire,” he opposed opening Japan's agricultural market. 

But he acknowledged to Congress that he is spearheading those long-awaited changes now. 

After two decades of decline, “Japan's agriculture is at a crossroads. In order for it to survive, it has to change now," he said. 

As part of his three-pronged economic plan, Abe said he is overhauling decades-old farm policy, including "bringing sweeping reforms to our agricultural cooperatives that have not changed in 60 long years."

"In short, Japan is right in the middle of a quantum leap," he said. 

Abe called the deal's strategic value "awesome," noting it goes beyond economic benefits and the long-term security of the Asia-Pacific region.

"The TPP covers an area that accounts for 40 percent of the world economy, and one third of global trade," Abe said. "We must turn the area into a region for lasting peace and prosperity."