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  • DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAR 13, 2007

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on March 13th, 2007

    Hello Blog. Collating a bunch of media to track a very interesting issue:

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    DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MARCH 13, 2007
    SPECIAL EDITION
    THE “COMFORT WOMEN” ISSUE, PM ABE, AND THE MEDIA:
    SUPPORTING THE HOME TEAM AT ALL COSTS

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////

    By Arudou Debito (debito@debito.org, www.debito.org)
    March 13, 2007, freely forwardable
    If this newsletter comes out garbled (darn “smart quotes”), full text blogged at
    http://www.debito.org/index.php

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////
    SUMMARY: Japan’s Prime Minister Abe has a long history of being a historical revisionist, coming out in full bloom recently with the “Comfort Women” sexual slaves issue of WWII. What’s interesting his how Abe’s Cabinet could not contain the gaffes, to the point where he comes off as a denier and a prevaricator–especially in the face of survivors testifying in the US Congress (after decades of lack of success in Japanese courts for redress). As articles included in this newsletter demonstrate, he gets deeper in trouble the more he says, then blames the media for “misunderstandings” and clams up. Then flunkeys from the LDP and the Foreign Ministry get to work on spin control, going abroad to contain the damage, getting the J media to make this into a domestic issue for public consumption, and redirecting the public eye back onto Japan’s perennial victimhood complex, by pouring tax monies into anti-North-Korean TV ads and the abduction issue. Meanwhile, his popularity keeps dropping, and people wonder if he’ll survive the next election in a few months. As people keep murmuring, Koizumi did it better.
    //////////////////////////////////////////////////
    (All articles included in this report have been archived in full at
    http://www.debito.org/?p=247)
    Something I have found very interesting recently has been the development of the debate over the Comfort Women (ianfu), or rather, the women pressed into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

    For those who have been living without media, our PM has been embarrassingly showing his true colors as a historical revisionist and atrocity denier. Although the Western media has hitherto mostly done puff pieces on him (Economist London Sept 28 06 Cover: “Assertive Abe”, Newsweek Japan Feb 5 07 Cover: “Akie Abe: Japan’s Jackie O”), very few got into the heart of the REAL Abe. The one I’ve been tracking for years now.

    I’ve known for a long time that Abe had a nasty streak behind the doe eyes he loves to flash for the housewives. Witness the pressure he put on NHK to follow his revisionist agenda (which was only sporadically covered domestically, and hardly at all overseas):

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    NHK stung by censorship suit appeal
    Court links politics with deletion of Hirohito verdict in sex-slave program
    (Japan Times Jan 30, 2006)

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070130a1.html

    The Tokyo High Court on Monday ordered NHK and two production companies to pay damages to a women’s rights group for altering the content of a documentary on a mock tribunal over Japan’s wartime sexual slavery The suit has been closely watched because the NGO claimed NHK censored or otherwise altered part of the 2001 program after being pressured by heavyweights in the Liberal Democratic Party, including Shinzo Abe, who is now prime minister, and Shoichi Nakagawa.
    =======================================

    =======================================
    (Japan Times Jan 7, 2006)
    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fl20070107rp.html
    The political pressure put, in 2001, on NHK, the national broadcaster, by the current prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to excise portions of a program that would imply imperial responsibility for war crimes. Add to this the government ordering NHK in 2006 to broadcast information about the North Korean abductions in the service of the country.
    =======================================

    Fortunately, now the Western media has their peg to unzip the Abe Adminstration. Time Magazine was one of the first to break the story:

    TIME MAGAZINE ARTICLE
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    Japan PM Denies WWII Sex Slavery
    By AP/HIROKO TABUCHI
    Time Magazine Thursday, Mar. 01, 2007

    http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1595375,00.html

    TOKYO: Yasuji Kaneko, 87, still remembers the screams of the countless women he raped in China as a soldier in the Japanese imperial army in World War II. Some were teenagers from Korea serving as sex slaves in military-run brothels. Others were women in villages he and his comrades pillaged in eastern China.

    “They cried out, but it didn’t matter to us whether the women lived or died,” Kaneko said in an interview with The Associated Press at his Tokyo home. “We were the emperor’s soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.”

    Historians say some 200,000 women–mostly from Korea and China–served in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and 1940s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops, and the top government spokesman acknowledged the wrongdoing in 1993.

    [THE KOUNO STATEMENT ON THE COMFORT WOMEN ISSUE (August 4, 1993), FOR THE RECORD
    Following is the text of the statement in English translation from the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Web site.

    http://www.mofa.go.jp/policy/women/fund/state9308.html
    Original Japanese at
    http://www.mofa.go.jp/mofaj/area/taisen/kono.html ]

    Now some in Japan’s government are questioning whether the apology was needed.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday denied women were forced into military brothels across Asia, boosting renewed efforts by right-wing politicians to push for an official revision of the apology.

    “The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion,” Abe said.

    Abe’s remarks contradicted evidence in Japanese documents unearthed in 1992 that historians said showed military authorities had a direct role in working with contractors to forcibly procure women for the brothels…

    Abe’s comments were a reversal from the government’s previous stance. In 1993, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologized to the victims of sex slavery, though the statement did not meet demands by former “comfort women” that it be approved by parliament.

    Two years later, the government set up a compensation fund for victims, but it was based on private donations–not government money–and has been criticized as a way for the government to avoid owning up to the abuse. The mandate is to expire March 31.

    The sex slave question has been a cause celebre for nationalist politicians and scholars in Japan who claim the women were professional prostitutes and were not coerced into servitude by the military.

    Before Abe spoke Thursday, a group of ruling Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers discussed their plans for a proposal to urge the government to water down parts of the 1993 apology and deny direct military involvement.

    Nariaki Nakayama, chairman of the group of about 120 lawmakers, sought to play down the government’s involvement in the brothels by saying it was similar to a school that hires a company to run its cafeteria.

    “Some say it is useful to compare the brothels to college cafeterias run by private companies, who recruit their own staff, procure foodstuffs, and set prices,” he said.

    “Where there’s demand, businesses crop up but to say women were forced by the Japanese military into service is off the mark,” he said. “This issue must be reconsidered, based on truth for the sake of Japanese honor.”…
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    Then the New York Times chimed in:

    NYT ARTICLE
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    Abe Rejects Japan’s Files on War Sex
    By NORIMITSU ONISHI, NEW YORK TIMES: March 2, 2007

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/02/world/asia/02japan.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

    …Mr. Abe’s statement was the clearest so far that the government was preparing to reject a 1993 government statement that acknowledged the military’s role in setting up brothels and forcing, either directly or indirectly, women into sexual slavery…

    “There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it,” Mr. Abe told reporters. “So, in respect to this declaration, you have to keep in mind that things have changed greatly.”

    The United States House of Representatives has begun debating a resolution that would call on Tokyo to “apologize for and acknowledge” the military’s role in wartime sex slavery.

    But at the same time, in keeping with a recent trend to revise Japan’s wartime history, a group of conservatives in the governing Liberal Democratic Party is stepping up calls to rescind the 1993 declaration.

    Mr. Abe, whose approval ratings have been plummeting over a series of scandals and perceived weak leadership, seemed to side with this group. A nationalist who has led efforts to revise wartime history, Mr. Abe softened his tone after becoming prime minister last fall. In fact, he first said he recognized the validity of the declaration, angering his conservative base…

    …Nariaki Nakayama, the leader of 120 lawmakers who want to revise the declaration, said Thursday. “Where there’s demand, business crops up… But to say women were forced by the Japanese military into service is off the mark.”…

    But in 1992, a Japanese historian, Yoshiaki Yoshimi, outraged by government denials, went to the Self-Defense Agency’s library and unearthed, after two days of searching, documents revealing military involvement in establishing brothels. One was titled “Regarding the Recruitment of Women for Military Brothels.” Faced with this evidence, the government acknowledged its role and issued the declaration.

    But the response angered people across the political spectrum. The women and their supporters said that the government was not fully acknowledging its responsibility because the declaration was issued by Yohei Kono, then chief cabinet secretary, and not adopted by Parliament. It is known inside Japan simply as the “Kono Statement.”

    What is more, supporters accused the government of evading direct responsibility by establishing a private, nongovernment fund to compensate the women. Many former sex slaves have refused to accept compensation from this fund.

    But conservatives said the declaration went too far in acknowledging the military’s role in recruiting the women. While the documents showed that the military established the facilities, Mr. Yoshimi did not find documentation that the military had forcibly recruited the women. Conservatives have seized on this distinction to attack the declaration….
    ENDS
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    Then Abe began backpedalling as more came out in testimony by survivors before the US Congress (since the Japanese judiciary has essentially washed their hands of the issue):

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    Japan PM will stand by apology over forcing Asian women to have sex with troops
    CBS NEWS March 5, 2007 12:12am

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/03/04/ap/world/mainD8NL5RN80.shtml

    …”Though there are many definitions of coercion, Prime Minister Abe has said that he will stand by the Kono statement,” said Hiroshige Seko, special adviser in charge of Abe’s public relations, referring to a 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono apologizing to the victims of sex slavery…

    “He has not denied the statement,” Seko told a TV Asahi talk show. He did not attempt to explain the apparent discrepancies between the statement and Abe’s denial that coercion was involved.

    “The fact is, there is no evidence to prove there was coercion,” Abe said on Thursday.

    South Korea later lodged an official protest, accusing the leader of “glossing over the historical truth.” Rights activists in the Philippines also slammed Abe for labeling the slaves as common prostitutes….

    But prominent Japanese scholars and politicians routinely deny direct military involvement or the use of force in rounding up the women, blaming private contractors for the abuses.
    CBS NEWS ARTICLE ENDS

    ////////////////////////////////////////////
    Statement of The Honorable Michael M. Honda, Member of Congress
    Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and the Global Environment
    Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives
    Hearing on Protecting the Human Rights of “Comfort Women”
    Thursday, February 15, 2007

    EXCERPT
    =================================
    Now, nearly nine years after the passage of AJR27, I stand united with several of my colleagues in the House, from both parties, in support of H.Res.121 and the surviving Comfort Women who are here with us today. The urgency is upon this Committee and the Congress to take quick action on this resolution. These women are aging and their numbers dwindling with each passing day. If we do not act now, we will lose a historic opportunity to encourage the Government of Japan to properly acknowledge responsibility for the plight of the Comfort Women.

    Elected officials of Japan have taken steps to address this issue, and for that they are to be commended. In 1993, Japan’s then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono issued an encouraging statement regarding Comfort Women, which expressed the Government’s sincere apologies and remorse for their ordeal. Additionally, Japan attempted to provide monetary compensation to surviving comfort women through the Asia Women’s Fund, a government initiated and largely government-funded private foundation whose purpose was the carrying out of programs and projects with the aim of atonement for the Comfort Women. The Asia Women’s Fund is to be disbanded on March 31, 2007.

    Recent attempts, however, by some senior members of Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party to review and even possibly retract Secretary Kono’s statement are disheartening and mark Japan’s equivocation on this issue. Additionally, while I appreciate Japan’s creation of the Asia Women’s Fund and the past prime minister’s apologies to some comfort women, which accompanied this Fund’s disbursal of monetary compensation from this fund, the reality is that without a sincere and unequivocal apology from the government of Japan, the majority of surviving Comfort Women refused to accept these funds. In fact, as you will hear today, many Comfort Women returned the Prime Minister’s letter of apology accompanying the monetary compensation saying they felt the apology was artificial and disingenuous.
    ================================
    REST AT http://www.internationalrelations.house.gov/110/hon021507.htm
    More Congressional Record on this, courtesy of Matt Dioguardi’s Blog:
    http://japan.shadowofiris.com/wwii/abe-says-comfort-woman-not-coerced/
    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Once the government started saying one thing in the morning and contradicting it in the afternoon, Abe stopped backpedalling, clammed up, and blamed the media for the problem:

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    Japan tries to calm outrage on sex slave issue, says no new apology
    TOKYO, March 7 KYODO Courtesy of Club of 99

    Japan’s top government spokesman on Wednesday reiterated that there will be no new apology regarding wartime sex slaves in response to a resolution pending in the U.S. Congress and that discussions on the “comfort women” issue should not continue any further in an “unconstructive” manner…

    Shiozaki: “What we say in parliament on this issue is not always conveyed (by the media) accurately. It magnifies and spreads, and foreign countries react to that. The longer we continue this discussion, the more misunderstanding there is going to be… I think it better not to go on with this kind of discussion in a rather unconstructive manner.”

    Shiozaki again stressed that the government continues to uphold a 1993 statement that acknowledged and apologized for the forced recruitment of so-called “comfort women.”

    In an interview with Japanese media, Abe reiterated that he stands by the statement and added, “The U.S. resolution is based on a mistake of fact. It contains the misunderstanding that there was coercion, as in abductions carried out by the (Japanese) authorities. There was no such thing and I was just stating the fact that there have been no documents or witnesses of proof.”

    “The U.S. Congress bill is not based on objective facts and does not take into consideration the (Japanese) government’s handling of the issue so far,” spokesman Shiozaki said. “Therefore, no new apology will be made in response to such a resolution should it be passed.”

    Shiozaki insisted that Abe’s recent remarks did not contradict the so-called Kono statement…

    This week, Abe further explained that there was coercion “in the broad sense” of the word, referring to private traders who recruited the women, but insisted that there was no coercion “in the strict sense,” as in military personnel taking women from their homes and putting them in brothels.

    The more Abe and his spokesman Shiozaki try to explain the premier’s hair-splitting over the broad and strict definitions of “coercion,” the deeper it seems they find themselves bogged in a quagmire.

    Cornered by reporters’ questions at an afternoon news conference, Shiozaki effectively retracted his remarks in the morning that the Kono statement stipulates “both the strict and broad sense” of coercion.

    “As the prime minister has said many times in parliament, it was possible (the victims) felt pressure in the broad sense,” he said. “Issues in the narrow sense were by no means written in the Kono statement.”

    The hawkish premier, who declared immediately after taking office last September that his administration will stand by the Kono statement, was once part of a group of lawmakers opposed to the 1993 document…

    The premier also told reporters the government does not plan to get involved in setting up any organizations to carry on the activities of the Asian Women’s Fund after it is disbanded at the end of this month… ==Kyodo
    ENDS
    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Then the stories from the survivors began coming out…

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    Denial Reopens Wounds of Japan’s Ex-Sex Slaves (Excerpt)
    NYT March 8, 2007 By NORIMITSU ONISHI

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/08/world/asia/08japan.html?hp=&pagewanted=print

    SYDNEY, Australia, March 7 Wu Hsiu-mei said she was 23 and working as a maid in a hotel in 1940 when her Taiwanese boss handed her over to Japanese officers. She and some 15 other women were sent to Guangdong Province in southern China to become sex slaves.

    Inside a hotel there was a so-called comfort station, managed by a Taiwanese but serving only the Japanese military, Ms. Wu said. Forced to have sex with more than 20 Japanese a day for almost a year, she said, she had multiple abortions and became sterile…

    Ms. Wu told her story on Wednesday outside the Japanese Consulate here, where she and two others who had been sex slaves, known euphemistically as comfort women, were protesting Tokyo’s refusal to admit responsibility for the abuse that historians say they and as many as 200,000 other women suffered.

    All three Ms. Wu, who is now 90; a 78-year-old South Korean from Seoul; and an 84-year-old Dutch-Australian from Adelaide were participating in an international conference for Japan’s former sex slaves here. Now, just days after Mr. Abe’s remarks, the three were united in their fury.

    “I was taken away by force by Japanese officers, and a Japanese military doctor forced me to undress to examine me before I was taken away,” said Ms. Wu, who landed here in Sydney on Tuesday night after a daylong flight from Taipei. “How can Abe lie to the world like that?”…

    “Prime Minister Abe is in effect saying that the women are lying,” Representative Mike Honda, the California Democrat who is spearheading the legislation, said in a telephone interview. “I find it hard to believe that he is correct given the evidence uncovered by Japanese historians and the testimony of the comfort women.”

    Japanese historians, using the diaries and testimony of military officials as well as official documents from the United States and other countries, have been able to show that the military was directly or indirectly involved in coercing, deceiving, luring and sometimes kidnapping young women throughout Japan’s Asian colonies and occupied territories…

    Yet although Mr. Abe admitted coercion by private dealers, some of his closest allies in the governing Liberal Democratic Party have dismissed the women as prostitutes who volunteered to work in the comfort stations. They say no official Japanese government documents show the military’s role in recruiting the women.

    According to historians, the military established the stations to boost morale among its troops, but also to prevent rapes of local women and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among soldiers.

    Japan’s deep fear of rampaging soldiers also led it to establish brothels with Japanese prostitutes across Japan for American soldiers during the first months of the postwar occupation, a fact that complicates American involvement in the current debate…

    The most direct testimony of the military’s role has come from the women themselves.

    “An apology is the most important thing we want an apology that comes from the government, not only a personal one because this would give us back our dignity,” said Jan Ruff O’Herne, 84, who testified to a Congressional panel last month.

    Ms. Ruff was living with her family in Java, in what was then the Dutch East Indies, when Japan invaded in 1942. She spent the first two years in a prison camp, she said, but Japanese officers arrived one day in 1944. They forced single girls and women to line up and eventually picked 10 of them, including Ms. Ruff, who was 21.

    “On the first night, it was a high-ranking officer,” Ms. Ruff said. “It was so well organized. A military doctor came to our house regularly to examine us against venereal diseases, and I tell you, before I was examined the doctor raped me first. That’s how well organized it was.”

    In Japan’s colonies, historians say, the military worked closely with, or sometimes completely relied on, local people to obtain women.

    In Pyongyang, now the capital of North Korea, Gil Won-ok said, she lined up outside a Japanese military base to look for work in her early teens. A Korean man, she said, approached her with the promise of factory work, but she eventually found herself in a comfort station in northeast China. After she caught syphilis and developed tumors, Ms. Gil said, a Japanese military doctor removed her uterus…

    SORRY TO END THE EXCERPT HERE. PLEASE SEE WHOLE STORY AT
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/08/world/asia/08japan.html?hp=&pagewanted=print
    /////////////////////////////////////////////

    So now it became deflection time. See next article. Launch a probe…? Even though groups within the LDP (which Abe once led) still refuse to acknowledge the important issue of who is responsible, and split hairs over what constituted “coercion”. No wonder that apologies from Japan, no matter how well-intentioned, soon become mooted…

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    Abe endorses LDP probe into wartime sex slaves
    JAPAN TIMES Friday, March 9, 2007

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070309a1.html

    …Earlier in the day, an LDP lawmaker quoted Abe as saying the government would open a new investigation into the issue. The remark was made at a meeting of LDP lawmakers who adopted a resolution claiming that neither the wartime government nor the Imperial Japanese Army was responsible for “forcibly bringing” women to frontline brothels in the 1930s and ’40s. Abe was previously a director general of the LDP group.

    But when asked if the government plans to take another look at the issue, Abe said: “I heard the party is going to study and investigate the issue. As for the government, we will cooperate in providing documents as requested by the party.”

    Abe repeated that his government will continue to stand by the 1993 statement made by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono that admitted and apologized for the military’s involvement in forcing women into frontline brothels.

    Abe declined comment on what kind of documentation or evidence the government would submit. “I don’t know about details yet,” he said.

    In the resolution adopted Thursday, the LDP lawmakers’ association claimed its investigation showed that, despite the 1993 government statement, only private agencies forced women to work at the “comfort stations.”

    The group admitted in a written statement that private-sector agencies did kidnap some women and forced them to work at their brothels, but it denied the government and army’s involvement in the process of “forcibly bringing” women to the military brothels…

    The association, headed by former education minister Nariaki Nakayama, consists of 130 lawmakers, or nearly one-third of the 417 LDP lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet. The group handed the resolution to Abe Thursday afternoon.

    Abe was once the director general of the association, which has long campaigned to push the education ministry to remove descriptions of “comfort women” from public high school history text books…
    ENDS
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    Next day, more blame game:

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    Abe won’t explain sex slave remarks, accuses media of being inaccurate
    Japan Today/Kyodo News Friday, March 9, 2007 at 19:41 EST

    http://www.japantoday.com/jp/news/400829

    TOKYO Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Friday declined to give further explanation of his recent remarks on wartime sex slavery, saying such discussion would be ‘unproductive” and accusing the media of being “inaccurate.”

    “At this very sensitive time when it is difficult to have my remarks conveyed correctly, I believe discussion here will only become extremely unproductive,” said Abe…

    “Last time I answered questions on this issue, my remarks were not conveyed or reported accurately, so I believe it to be the right political judgment not to spread this any further,” Abe told reporters at his office when asked if he intends to provide an easier-to-understand explanation…

    The New York Times issued an editorial on Tuesday harshly criticizing Japan’s “efforts to contort the truth” and published a front-page article on the experiences of survivors in its Thursday edition… (Kyodo News)
    ENDS
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    That NYT editorial:

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    No Comfort
    THE NEW YORK TIMES Editorial March 6, 2007

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/06/opinion/06tues3.html
    What part of “Japanese Army sex slaves” does Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, have so much trouble understanding and apologizing for?

    The underlying facts have long been beyond serious dispute. During World War II, Japan’s Army set up sites where women rounded up from Japanese colonies like Korea were expected to deliver sexual services to Japan’s soldiers.

    These were not commercial brothels. Force, explicit and implicit, was used in recruiting these women. What went on in them was serial rape, not prostitution. The Japanese Army’s involvement is documented in the government’s own defense files. A senior Tokyo official more or less apologized for this horrific crime in 1993. The unofficial fund set up to compensate victims is set to close down this month.

    And Mr. Abe wants the issue to end there. Last week, he claimed that there was no evidence that the victims had been coerced. Yesterday, he grudgingly acknowledged the 1993 quasi apology, but only as part of a pre-emptive declaration that his government would reject the call, now pending in the United States Congress, for an official apology. America isn’t the only country interested in seeing Japan belatedly accept full responsibility. Korea and China are also infuriated by years of Japanese equivocations over the issue.

    Mr. Abe seems less concerned with repairing Japan’s sullied international reputation than with appealing to a large right-wing faction within his Liberal Democratic Party that insists that the whole shameful episode was a case of healthy private enterprise. One ruling party lawmaker, in his misplaced zeal to exculpate the Army, even suggested the offensive analogy of a college that outsourced its cafeteria to a private firm.

    Japan is only dishonored by such efforts to contort the truth.

    The 1993 statement needs to be expanded upon, not whittled down. Parliament should issue a frank apology and provide generous official compensation to the surviving victims. It is time for Japan’s politicians starting with Mr. Abe to recognize that the first step toward overcoming a shameful past is acknowledging it.
    ENDS
    /////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    This was echoed in a leader by The Economist London and an Op-Ed in the LA Times:

    /////////////////////////////////////////////////////
    NO COMFORT FOR ABE
    The Economist London, March 8, 2007

    http://www.economist.com/opinion/displaystory.cfm?story_id=E1_RRTVDVS

    “…Is he deaf?… The past is your country too… [S]ix decades on, deliberate amnesia is unworthy of modern, democratic Japan. Shame on you, Mr Abe.”
    /////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    LOS ANGELES TIMES OP-ED, March 6, 2007
    Japan can’t dodge this shame
    By Dinah L. Shelton, professor of law at George Washington University.

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-shelton6mar06,1,5075385.story
    …In 2000, the Tokyo District Court dismissed a case brought by 46 former sex slaves from the Philippines who accused Japan of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The court wrongly decided that “crimes against humanity” were not part of international law at the time. In 2001, a reparations claim by South Korean women who had been held as sex slaves failed in the Hiroshima High Court on the similarly erroneous grounds that coerced sex wasn’t illegal at the time.

    However, there is a strong case to be made that the Japanese government does owe the women damages. Rape and kidnapping were crimes in Japanese law at the time and should have led to prosecutions of soldiers committing them. Moreover, despite the ruling in Tokyo District Court, the notion of crimes against humanity goes back to 1904, and such crimes were indicted after World War I and successfully prosecuted after World War II. On top of that, Japan had joined in four international treaties that barred sexual trafficking in women and forced labor: the International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children (1921), the International Agreement for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic (1904), the International Convention for the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic of 1910 and the Agreement on the Abolition of Forced Labor (1930). In 1999, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions invoked these treaties and requested the International Labor Organization to rule that the women held by Japan in official brothels constituted forced laborers. The ILO Committee of Experts upheld the claim, despite Japanese contentions that the agreements did not apply to “colonial territories” such as occupied Korea. But the ILO had no power to order relief.

    The Japanese government cannot be sued outside Japan because it has immunity from prosecution as a foreign state. Attempts by surviving women to sue in U.S. courts were dismissed on these grounds. Even if the victims were to surmount this “sovereign immunity” defense, they might run into problems with the peace treaties that ended World War II. For example, the 1951 U.S.-Japan peace treaty “recognized that the resources of Japan are not presently sufficient, if it is to maintain a viable economy, to make complete reparation” for damage and suffering. Japan has argued that this provision and others in peace treaties with some of its Asian neighbors and European powers closed the door on reparations claims by former prisoners of war, “comfort women” and other victims of Japanese atrocities and that nothing is owed anyone today. However, several provisions in the peace treaties suggest that reopening the issue of reparations might be possible, and advocates should look carefully at the texts. Still, it seems no court is likely to cure the injustice; Japan has a moral and legal obligation to do so.
    ENDS
    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Finally, the wagons circled and “Team Japan” took effect…

    Interesting articles on how the LDP, the MInistry of Foreign Affairs, and the Japanese media has been trying to manage the spin, in effect turning this international issue of historical justice into a domestic political one.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if before long the sex slaves and their supporters are accused of “Japan bashing”…

    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////

    RESPONSE TO THE LA TIMES OP-ED FROM THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT
    Japan has atoned for transgressions
    LA Times Letter to the Editor March 11, 2007

    http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/letters/la-le-sunday11.4mar11,1,5857043.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

    Re “The shame Japan can’t dodge,” Opinion, March 6

    Let me set the record straight.

    In 1993, the government of Japan acknowledged the involvement of former Japanese military authorities in the “comfort women” issue and expressed apologies and remorse to those who endured immeasurable pain and incurable wounds.

    In 1995, the Asian Women’s Fund, which extended payments to women as a form of atonement and implemented medical and welfare projects, was established with the cooperation of the government and the Japanese people.

    Since then, payments have been accompanied by letters from prime ministers saying: “We must not evade the weight of the past, nor should we evade our responsibilities for the future. I believe that our country, painfully aware of its moral responsibilities, with feelings of apology and remorse, should face up squarely to its past history and accurately convey it to future generations.”

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that there has been no change in the position of the government of Japan.

    KAZUO KODAMA
    Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles

    (thanks to NHK 7PM news March 12, 2007, for notifying me)
    ===========================

    MEDIA MIX
    Female foreigners are OK in Japan, so long as they’re not Asian
    The Japan Times: Sunday, March 11, 2007 By PHILIP BRASOR

    http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fd20070311pb.html

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s refusal to apologize anew for Japan’s sex-slave policy during World War II has a different meaning in Japan than it does abroad…

    Overseas, Abe’s remarks made headlines and has provoked anger from those who say that the Japanese government has yet to own up to the sex-slave policy and is backtracking into denial. In Japan, Abe’s remarks have been buried in articles about Diet business or stuck at the end of TV news reports. The media see them as part of a strategy for Abe to appear more assertive in response to weakening public support for his administration.

    These reports rarely address the sex-slave issue itself. The Japanese media continue to use the euphemism “comfort women” to describe the sex slaves and have generally stopped discussing it as anything except a point of historical contention between Japan and certain groups outside of Japan. To the Japanese public it’s a nonissue.

    Abe can split hairs over the definition of “coercion” and claim that there is no evidence of government involvement in the forced recruitment of sex slaves because he knows the local press won’t challenge him. During that famous mock tribunal held in Tokyo in 2000, where international legal experts put the wartime government on trial for its sex-slave policy, plenty of testimony and evidence was given to show that the government had indeed forced women from Korea, Taiwan and other Asian countries into frontline brothels. But that episode has since been turned into an entirely different matter of coercion–one having to do with whether or not the ruling party put pressure on NHK to water down its coverage of the tribunal. In other words, it was turned into a local issue.

    Knowing what it knows about the behavior of soldiers and the suffering of innocents during wartime, the world looks upon Abe’s remarks as being cold and cynical–since they intensify the pain and humiliation of the surviving sex slaves, who couldn’t care less about the semantics of “coercion.” The Foreign Ministry has said that Abe’s remarks were “incorrectly conveyed” to the world and will attempt to educate the overseas media on “the real meaning of Japan’s position.” This transparent stab at spin control will fail because, in the end, Abe cares less about what the world thinks than about what his supporters think. And the media is willing to go along with it….
    ===========================

    Japanese Prime Minister angers victims of wartime sex slavery
    THE INDEPENDENT (London) Published: 09 March 2007
    By David McNeill in Tokyo

    http://news.independent.co.uk/world/asia/article2341358.ece

    …[T]he issue has galvanised the Japanese right, who deny government involvement. “The women were legal prostitutes in brothels,” Nobukatsu Fujioka, a revisionist academic, said. He is one of the leading figures in a movement that aims to overturn much of the accepted wisdom about what took place during Japan’s rampage across Asia in the 1930s and 40s.

    Twelve out of 18 members of Japan’s cabinet belong to a political forum that wants to “rethink” history education and backs many of Professor Fujioka’s views. His Society for History Textbook Reform has sold 800,000 copies of a revisionist history book that denies war crimes such as the comfort women and the Rape of Nanjing. Before coming to power, Mr Abe was one of the society’s supporters.

    The revisionist denials are refuted by many Japanese historians. “The military decided when, where, and how ‘comfort stations’ were to be established,” Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor of history at Tokyo’s Chuo University, said.

    Former Japanese soldiers have also testified to their involvement in the wartime rape of Asian women. Hajime Kondo, who was stationed in China from 1940-44, recalled kidnapping a woman in Shanxi Province and taking turns with his comrades in raping her. He said the thought that gang rape was wrong “never occurred” to him until he had his own family.

    The deniers, however, have grown stronger since a 1993 statement by chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono that the military was directly involved. That statement has never been accepted by the right. Now, with the prospect of a US Congressional resolution calling on Tokyo to “formally apologise and accept historical responsibility” for the comfort women, a delegation of LDP politicians is to travel to the US to lobby for the resolution to be quashed.

    Mr Abe’s supporters say his plummeting approval ratings have forced him to go for broke. “If he is true to his beliefs and says what he feels, his popularity will rise,” Professor Fujioka said.
    ENDS
    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    In other words, just ride this thing out. Meanwhile, bang the nationalist drum and rally domestic support behind an issue which Japan can unequivocally claim “victim status”–The North Korean Rachi Mondai Abduction Issue:

    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Japan launches ad campaign to promote efforts to get back abductees from North Korea
    Courtesy Club of 99, Associated Press, March 12, 2007

    TOKYO (AP) Japan is launching a TV ad campaign to boost public support for its effort to resolve North Korea’s abductions of Japanese citizens, officials said Monday.

    The first commercial will be broadcast on 114 commercial TV stations across the nation March 15-31, the Cabinet Office said. In a video clip, a girl walking on a beach with her parents and a little sister is abruptly washed away by swollen black waves.

    Photographs of 17 abductees still believed to be in the North and their families then cover the screen, followed by the message: “The abductions by North Korea took away loved ones and their lives. Japan will get back all abduction victims at any cost.”

    North Korea admitted in 2002 that it kidnapped 13 Japanese citizens in the 1970s and ’80s. Pyongyang sent five of them home later that year, but insisted the rest were dead. Japan has demanded proof and says more of its citizens may have been taken.

    Japan’s 105 million yen ([US$890,000; euro 676,500]) commercial campaign is aimed at rallying public opinion behind Tokyo’s stance when multilateral nuclear disarmament talks reconvene next week, said Cabinet Office official Koshi Niitani.

    North Korea pledged to shut down its nuclear reactor in return for energy aid in talks on improved relations with regional powers during the previous round in Beijing in February. The talks, which also involve China, the United States, South Korea and Russia, are scheduled to begin March 19.

    Last week, Japan and North Korea held talks in Hanoi aimed at normalizing ties under the Beijing agreement, but failed to make a breakthrough. Tokyo has refused to provide energy aid to or establish diplomatic relations with North Korea unless Pyongyang accounts for its abductions, while North Korea has demanded reparations from Japan for its 1910-45 colonization of the Korean peninsula. Japan has yet to formally apologize to the North for its wartime actions.
    ENDS
    //////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Our taxes at work. Look, I am no apologist for NK’s actions (I think the leadership is nuts), so let’s not get hung up on that. My point is that what’s lying latent in the debate is the acknowledgment of history, without historical creep to match political capitalizing.

    This is one of the reasons why UN Special Rapporteur Doudou Diene has stated repeatedly that we need a written history of the region (brokered by the UN) which every country can agree upon. (http://www.debito.org/?p=238)

    Otherwise, we’re going to keep on falling into the vicious circles of historical revisionism, unaddressed victims, mooted apologies, and intercontinental tensions that span generations and last for centuries–which hinder people looking for commonalities and common ground in negotiations.

    Get on with it, everyone. Grow up and face the fact that any honest study of history for ANY country or society has its dark moments and historical atrocities. Stop denying. Acknowledge, and move on. It makes a country no less “beautiful’, Mr Abe. It actually makes a country worthy of respect for its honesty.

    Arudou Debito in Sapporo
    debito@debito.org, www.debito.org
    DEBITO.ORG SPECIAL NEWSLETTER ON THE COMFORT WOMEN ISSUE, MARCH 13, 2007, ENDS

    4 Responses to “DEBITO.ORG NEWSLETTER MAR 13, 2007”

    1. debito Says:

      –FROM JUSTIN McCURRY AT THE GRAUNIAD. DEBITO

      Hi Debito,

      Thanks for the updates and links.

      Don’t forget about the poor old Guardian. Your readers can also comment on
      the comfort women issue here:
      http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/justin_mccurry/2007/03/mr_abe_and_the_comfort.html
      And here: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/global/justin_mccurry.html [you’ll
      notice there’s a link to your blog near the end]

      Thanks very much,

      Justin

      ——————————————————————
      Visit Guardian Unlimited – the UK’s most popular newspaper website
      http://guardian.co.uk http://observer.co.uk
      ——————————————————————

    2. Matt Says:

      Debito, your comments would be much more convincing if you actually considered what he said in Japanese, not the botched misquote/mistranslation in English. Any person that actually saw the comments in Japanese would agree that Abe had been misquoted/mistranslated, and quite badly at that. Also, I assume that you agree with the article that says “Abe won’t explain sex slave remarks” since you actually posted it, but that is factually nonsense. PM Abe answered questions about it in question time in the Diet for 15 minutes. There he explained his comments time and time again.

      Here is Abe explaining his remarks, something that did not happen in your universe.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jCRq8Trzxh0
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pE0jsuohBP8

      If you want to be an effective activist, you have to stop looking for talking points. If you did not know about the mistranslation/misquotation, then you should have checked it out once Abe started complaining about it. People know that you can speak Japanese, Japanese people know it too, so when when you write things like this that is known to be false, or can easily be shown to be false, you lose potential Japanese allies, and alienate Japanese speaking foreigners like myself. If you did not read the Japanese newspapers, then you should have. Even Asahi Shinbun did not make a fuss about his comments, because they knew the comments had been butchered by the overseas press.

      Here is a post that explains how Abe’s comments were wrongly reported by the overseas press in simple terms.

      http://ampontan.wordpress.com/2007/03/05/congress-backstabs-us-ally-times-lie-trashes-abe/

      I hope that foreigners currently living in Japan will be able to break through the remaining barriers in society. For this reason, I hope that you will focus on current issues concerning foreigners, and do so with scrupulous attention to the facts.

    3. Matt Says:

      My apologies, I posted the wrong video files of Abe’s replies in parliament. They are here –

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb2RLttIObQ
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnnnJIXKbsk&mode=related&search=

      –THANKS FOR THE LINKS, MATT, AND FOR ASSUMING THAT I DID NOT READ THE JAPANESE PRESS.

      I DID WATCH THE YOUTUBES AND APPRECIATE THE RAISING THE POINTS OF ORDER. HOWEVER, YOU STILL HAVE THE BASIC FACTS OF THE CASE CONFIRMED:

      1) WE HAVE A PM (AND RELATED SUBGROUP) WHO WISHES TO DOWNPLAY IF NOT COMPLETELY OMIT THIS CASE FROM JAPAN’S HISTORICAL RECORD. AND WILL ACCUSE PEOPLE OF SHOWING CONTEMPT (otoshimeru) FOR JAPAN (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnnnJIXKbsk&NR minute 2) FOR RAISING THE POINTS IN DEBATE.

      2) WE HAVE A SEGMENT OF THE DEBATE ARENA WHO WISHES TO USE WHATEVER NIGGLING THREADS THEY CAN FIND TO ESSENTIALLY ACCUSE LITTLE OLD LADIES OF LYING AND PROFITEERING.

      3) THE YOUTUBE VIDEO (FIRST ONE, THEN VOL 2 AFTERWARDS) IS ESSENTIALLY SAYING WHAT THE NEWSPAPERS HAVE REPORTED: THAT ABE SAID THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF COERCION. AND THAT THE SURVIVORS’ TESTIMONIES DON’T COUNT.

      =====================

      SORRY, CAN’T ACCEPT THAT. THE IANFU WERE VICTIMS. JAPAN’S GOVERNMENT SHOULD OFFICIALLY ACCEPT IT AND MOVE ON. REPRESENTATIVES OF OUR GOVERNMENT HAVE DEMONSTRATED TIME AND TIME AGAIN THAT THEY CANNOT DO THAT. AND IF NOT FOR THE TIMELY EXPOSURE THIS CASE GOT, EVEN KOUNO’S STATEMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN VOIDED. THIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS THAT PEOPLE HAVE A HARD TIME TRUSTING JAPAN’S SINCERITY IN TERMS OF ATONING PROPERLY FOR JAPAN’S WRETCHED HISTORY WITH ITS NEIGHBORS.

      IF THE FACTS OF THE CASE IN THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH ARE EVEN UP FOR DISPUTE, OR DELIGITIMIZATION AS MERE “TALKING POINTS”, THEN WE HAVE LITTLE GROUND FOR FURTHER DISCUSSION. — DEBITO

    4. debito Says:

      A BIT MORE ON THE SUBJECT OF “ABE’S BEING MISQUOTED” FROM MATT DIOGUARDI’S BLOG, FYI. –DEBITO

      http://japan.shadowofiris.com/conservatives/abes-misquoted-probably-not/

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