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  • PM Abe: OK, OK, I apologize for “Comfort Women”, already

    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on March 27th, 2007

    Hi Blog. Trace the Arc of Abe, from denial to hair-splitting to no comment to deflection to apology through his cabinet. Previous articles archived here

    However, belated apologies like this (just by simple human nature, apologies tend to mean less when they come after being demanded, especially over a long duration) will have the irony of a similar debate:

    Just how much “coercion” was there behind Abe’s apology? And how does this affect the sincerity of the act?

    Anyway, it’s a step in the right direction (was there any other direction realistically to step?). The media from the Mainichi etc. leading up to this included below. Debito in Sapporo

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

    Abe apologizes to sex slaves
    March 26, 2007. Mainichi Shinbun

    http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/national/news/20070326p2a00m0na030000c.html

    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, under fire for denying that Japan forced women to work as sex slaves during World War II, offered a new apology Monday for the front line military brothels.

    “I apologize here and now as prime minister,” Abe told a parliamentary committee, according to his spokesman Hiroshi Suzuki.

    Thousands of Asian women — mostly from Korea and China — worked in the brothels, and estimates run as high as 200,000. Victims say the Japanese military forced them into the brothels and held them against their will.

    Earlier this month, Abe denied there was any evidence the women had been coerced into sexual service, reflecting the views of conservative Japanese academics and politicians who argue the women were professional prostitutes and were paid for their services.

    Abe’s denial drew intense criticism from Beijing and Seoul, which accuse Tokyo of failing to fully atone for it’s wartime invasions and atrocities.

    The issue has also stirred debate in the United States, where a committee in the House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution calling on Tokyo to fully acknowledge wrongdoing and make an unambiguous apology.

    Abe previously said he would not apologize because Tokyo expressed its remorse in a 1993 statement on the matter by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. (AP)

    March 26, 2007. Mainichi Shinbun
    ENDS

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

    Shinzo Abe’s Double Talk
    He’s passionate about Japanese victims of North Korea — and blind to Japan’s own war crimes.
    Washington Post, Saturday, March 24, 2007; A16

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032301640.html

    THE TOUGHEST player in the “six-party” talks on North Korea this week was not the Bush administration — which was engaged in an unseemly scramble to deliver $25 million in bank funds demanded by the regime of Kim Jong Il — but Japan. Tokyo is insisting that North Korea supply information about 17 Japanese citizens allegedly kidnapped by the North decades ago, refusing to discuss any improvement in relations until it receives answers. This single-note policy is portrayed as a matter of high moral principle by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has used Japan’s victims — including a girl said to have been abducted when she was 13 — to rally his wilting domestic support.

    Mr. Abe has a right to complain about Pyongyang’s stonewalling. What’s odd — and offensive — is his parallel campaign to roll back Japan’s acceptance of responsibility for the abduction, rape and sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of women during World War II. Responding to a pending resolution in the U.S. Congress calling for an official apology, Mr. Abe has twice this month issued statements claiming there is no documentation proving that the Japanese military participated in abducting the women. A written statement endorsed by his cabinet last week weakened a 1993 government declaration that acknowledged Japan’s brutal treatment of the so-called comfort women.

    In fact the historical record on this issue is no less convincing than the evidence that North Korea kidnapped Japanese citizens, some of whom were used as teachers or translators. Historians say that up to 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines and other Asian countries were enslaved and that Japanese soldiers participated in abductions. Many survivors of the system have described their horrifying experiences, including three who recently testified to Congress. That the Japanese government has never fully accepted responsibility for their suffering or paid compensation is bad enough; that Mr. Abe would retreat from previous statements is a disgrace for a leader of a major democracy.

    Mr. Abe may imagine that denying direct participation by the Japanese government in abductions may strengthen its moral authority in demanding answers from North Korea. It does the opposite. If Mr. Abe seeks international support in learning the fate of Japan’s kidnapped citizens, he should straightforwardly accept responsibility for Japan’s own crimes — and apologize to the victims he has slandered.

    ENDS
    /////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    COMMENT BY TIM ON THE LIFE IN JAPAN LIST:
    The analogy – fair or otherwise – between the Japanese abductees and second world war ‘comfort women’ and forced labourers of other types, seems to get very little attention in the Japanese press.

    However, this article in the Washington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/23/AR2007032301640.html was reported in this morning’s Asahi Newspaper (This is an onlilne article from yesterday) http://www.asahi.com/international/update/0325/006.html which accuses the Japanese prime minister of “double talk” about abductions.

    BTW todays’ printed asahi article uses “ni mai jita” (forked tongue?) as a translation for “double talk” in the original, but yesterday’s internet version of the Asahi uses “gomakashi” (fudging) as a translation of the same article.

    Abe’s talk is double, it is claimed, since he takes a severe, high moral against the North Koreans for abducting Japanese, but seems to be attempting to play down the abduction of Asians as sex slaves, claiming that there is no documentary evidence for abductions by the Japanese government. I am sure that at least the North Koreans have been drawing this analogy.

    Indeed one Japanese abductee – who claims not to have been abducted – visited Japan and returned to North Korea saying things like (not accurate quote but something along the lines of ) ‘you don’t understand your past at all’ to this mother before he left. The mother thought he had been indocrinated. His story was reported in a back page Asahi article but I can’t find any mention of him on the net. Does anyone know his name?

    Still less attention is the analogy between the Japanese abductees and the abduction of children – at least under non-Japanese law – by Japanese parents as mentioned in the life in Japan list previously on these threads. http://groups.yahoo.com/unbounce?adj=163087019,28171&p=1174878464 http://groups.yahoo.com/group/life_in_japan/message/1541 Tim
    COMMENT ENDS
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    South Korean activist enters Japanese Embassy to protest World War II sex slaves
    March 21, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

    http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/international/news/20070321p2g00m0in016000c.html

    PHOTO CAPTION: A South Korean protester Oh Sung-taek, left, runs away from a police officer, right, after he climbs over the walls of the Japanese Embassy compound in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 21, 2007. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered outrage across Asia earlier this month by saying there was no proof the women, including some Australians, were coerced into prostitution. He later said Japan will not apologize again for the military’s “comfort stations.” The Korean read “History Distortion.” (AP Photo/ Lee Jin-man)

    SEOUL — A South Korean activist scaled a wall of the Japanese Embassy on Wednesday, and staged a brief protest atop an embassy building against Japan’s denial of responsibility for forcing women to work as sex slaves during World War II.

    Oh Sung-taek, a member of a vocal civic group, stomped on a Japanese flag and shouted anti-Japanese slogans for 10 minutes before he was removed by police, according to witnesses and a police officer. He wore a placard with a picture of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that read: “Destroy History Distortion.”

    Police could not immediately enter the embassy to detain Oh because they needed permission from the embassy, the officer said on customary condition of anonymity.

    Oh was among 100 protesters gathered outside the embassy for a rally that has been held every Wednesday since 1992 to demand that Japan apologize and compensate World War II sex slaves — who were also called “comfort women” — for Japanese troops.

    “Japan who forgets her past cannot create a peaceful future,” read a banner held by one protester.

    The turnout was larger than usual because Japan recently insisted there was no evidence its military or government forced women to work in World War II military brothels.

    On Friday, Japan’s Cabinet issued a formal statement that no such proof existed, repeating a similar claim by Abe. The declaration was seen as a slap in the face of Asian nations already outraged over Abe’s remarks.

    Historians say about 200,000 women, mostly from Korea and China, served in Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s. Many victims say they were kidnapped and forced into sexual slavery by Japanese troops.

    Japan ruled the Korean peninsula as a colony in 1910-45 before it was divided into the South and North. Many Koreans still harbor resentment toward Japan’s occupation. (AP)

    March 21, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun
    ENDS
    /////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Japan tries to calm furor over WWII sex slaves
    March 7, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

    http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/national/news/20070307p2a00m0na014000c.html

    Japan tried to calm an international furor Wednesday over its forcing Asian women to work in military brothels during World War II, saying the government stands by an earlier landmark apology for the practice.

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe triggered a barrage of criticism throughout Asia by saying last week there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. He said Monday Japan will not apologize again for the so-called “comfort stations” for Japanese soldiers.

    “The prime minister’s recent remarks are not meant to change this government’s position,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki said, referring to a breakthrough 1993 apology made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono.

    “The government continues to support the Kono statement,” Shiozaki said.

    Historians say thousands of women — as many as 200,000 by some accounts — mostly from Korea, China and Japan worked in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s.

    Documentary evidence uncovered in 1992 showed the Japanese military had a direct role in running the brothels. Victims, witnesses and even former soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as 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 any abuses. The government has also questioned the 200,000 women figure.

    The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a nonbinding resolution demanding a formal acknowledgment and apology from the Japanese government for the brothels.

    But on Wednesday, Shiozaki also reiterated earlier comments by Abe that the prime minister would not apologize again even if the measure passes.

    “The U.S. resolution is not based on objective facts and does not take into consideration the responses that we have taken so far. Therefore, we will not offer a fresh apology,” Shiozaki said.

    Abe’s recent comments about the military brothels have spurred a backlash across Asia, with critics in China, South Korea and the Philippines demanding Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

    Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing denounced the use of sex slaves as “one of the serious crimes committed by Japanese militarists during the second World War.”

    Li also urged the Japanese government to “stand up to this part of history, take responsibility and seriously view and properly handle this issue.”

    Shiozaki tried to downplay criticism that Japan was reneging on past apologies.

    “I think we should not continue these discussions in an unconstructive manner for much longer,” Shiozaki said. “Japan’s stance is clear.”

    The 1993 apology was not approved by the parliament. It came after a Japanese journalist uncovered official defense documents showing the military had a direct hand in running the brothels — a role Tokyo until that point had denied. (AP)

    March 7, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun
    ENDS
    ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////

    Abe says LDP to conduct fresh investigation into WWII military brothels
    March 8, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

    http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/national/news/20070308p2a00m0na023000c.html

    Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday that ruling party lawmakers will conduct a fresh investigation into the Japanese military’s use of brothels during World War II.

    The government is ready to cooperate with the investigation, Abe told a group of reporters, amid calls for a review from conservatives who question many of the claims by victims and others who say the government kidnapped the women and force them into sex slavery.

    “I was told the party will conduct an investigation or a study, so we will provide government documents and cooperate as necessary,” he said.

    Last week, Abe triggered outrage across Asia by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution. On Monday he said Japan will not apologize again for the Japanese military’s “comfort stations.”

    Earlier Thursday, Japan’s top government spokesman said that Japan’s position on the coercion of women into sex slavery on the front-line during WWII has been misinterpreted and misrepresented by the U.S. media, and Tokyo will soon issue a rebuttal.

    Abe’s remarks came as the U.S. Congress was considering a resolution demanding a formal apology from Japan for its wartime use of the women.

    Japanese leaders apologized in 1993 for the government’s role, but the apology was not approved by the Diet. Japanese officials have said the government will not issue a fresh apology and that the issue has been blown up by the U.S. media.

    “Our view is that the media reports are being made without an appropriate interpretation of the prime minister’s remarks,” chief Cabinet spokesman Yasuhisa Shiozaki said. “We are considering appropriate measures, such as putting out a rebuttal to reports or comments that are not based on facts or that are based on incorrect interpretations.”

    He did not cite any specific reports.

    “My remarks have been twisted in a sense and reported overseas which further invites misunderstanding,” Abe said. “This is an extremely unproductive situation,” he said.

    Historians say as many as 200,000 women — mostly from Korea, China, Southeast Asia and Japan — worked in the Japanese military brothels throughout Asia in the 1930s and ’40s. Defense documents have shown that the military had a direct role in running the brothels, which the government had previously denied.

    Abe said Thursday that he “basically stands by the 1993 apology.” The apology, made by then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledged government involvement in the brothels, and that some women were coerced into sexual service.

    But Abe’s remarks appeared to step away from the government’s previous position.

    Defense documents uncovered in 1992 showed the military had a direct role in running the brothels, a charge the government had previously denied. Victims, witnesses and former soldiers have said women and girls were kidnapped to serve as prostitutes.

    Abe’s comments have incensed critics in China, North and South Korea, and the Philippines who have demanded Japan acknowledge its responsibility.

    The fallout from the remarks continued to build.

    The coercion of women into prostitution was “one of the key, serious crimes committed by Japanese imperial soldiers,” Qin Gang, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said Thursday.

    “We hope that Japan can show courage, take a responsible attitude toward history,” he said during a regular news briefing.

    “This once again strips bare his true colors as a political charlatan,” North Korea’s official news agency said Wednesday. (AP)

    March 8, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun
    ENDS
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    Japan’s Cabinet says no evidence establishing coercion of ‘comfort women’
    March 16, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

    http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/national/news/20070316p2a00m0na024000c.html

    The Japanese government has found no evidence that the military or government forced women to work in World War II military brothels, Japan’s Cabinet said Friday.

    The Cabinet presented its assessment in a response to an opposition lawmaker’s question over its stance on a 1993 apology for the government’s role in setting up brothels.

    The lawmaker, Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the Social Democratic Party, posted the documents on her Internet home page.

    “The government has not come across anything recorded in the materials it has found that directly shows so-called ‘coercion’ on the part of the military or constituted authorities,” the document said.

    Historians say as many as 200,000 women, most of them Asians, worked in Japanese military brothels across the region in the 1930s and ’40s.

    Japanese defense documents have shown that the military had a direct role in running the brothels, which the government had previously denied.

    A senior Japanese official apologized in 1993 for the government’s role, but the Diet did not approve the apology.

    Abe triggered outrage across Asia earlier this month by saying there was no proof the women were coerced into prostitution.

    The remark came as the U.S. Congress was considering a resolution demanding that Japan formally apologize for its wartime use of women.

    Abe later said that he stands by the 1993 apology, and that Japan will not apologize again for the military’s “comfort stations.” (AP)

    March 16, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun
    ENDS
    ///////////////////////////////////////////

    Former Japanese leader Nakasone denies setting up sex slave brothel in World War II
    March 23, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun

    http://mdn.mainichi-msn.co.jp/national/news/20070323p2a00m0na023000c.html

    A Japanese former prime minister and elder statesman Friday denied setting up a military brothel staffed by sex slaves during World War II, despite writing a memoir that critics say shows he did so while in the navy.

    Yasuhiro Nakasone, who served as prime minister from 1982 to 1987 and was known for his friendship with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan, described the facility he set up as a place for civilian engineers to relax and play Japanese chess.

    “I never had personal knowledge of the matter,” Nakasone told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan when asked about wartime sex slaves, known in Japan euphemistically as “comfort women.”

    “I only knew about it from what I read in the newspaper,” he said, adding that such enslavement was “deplorable” and that he supported the Japanese government spokesman’s 1993 apology to victims.

    Historians say thousands of women — most from Korea and China — worked in the frontline brothels, and estimates run as high as 200,000. Victims say they were forced into the brothels by the Japanese military and were held against their will.

    The U.S. House of Representatives is considering a resolution that calls on Japan to make a full apology for the brothels, and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stirred criticism earlier this month when he denied there was evidence the women were forced into service.

    A Nakasone memoir published in 1978 said that members of his 3,000-man navy unit in wartime Philippines and Borneo “began attacking women, while others took to gambling.”

    “At one point, I went to great pains to set up a comfort station” to keep them under control, he wrote. The essay was in an anthology of war accounts, “The Eternal Navy — Stories to Hand Down to the Younger Generation.”

    In the 1990s, former Philippine sex slaves cited the memoir as further proof Nakasone was involved with enslavement, bolstering their demands that Tokyo compensate the victims. The Japanese government in 1995 set up a private fund for the women, but never offered direct government compensation.

    A Nakasone spokesman in 1997 told The Associated Press that the brothel was operated by local business people and that the prostitutes worked there voluntarily and had not been forced into sexual slavery.

    But on Friday, Nakasone was vague about the activities at the facility, skirting a question about whether prostitutes were active there.

    “The engineers … wanted to have a facility to relax and play ‘go,’ so we simply established a place so they could have that,” Nakasone said, explaining that the men — civilian engineers — needed someplace for rest and entertainment.

    Nakasone’s government, as all Japanese governments until the 1990s, denied any official involvement with the wartime brothels.

    The former prime minister is known in Japan for his nationalist stance. In 1985, he was the first Japanese prime minister to visit a Tokyo war shrine after it began honoring executed war criminals. (AP)

    March 23, 2007 Mainichi Shinbun
    ENDS

    3 Responses to “PM Abe: OK, OK, I apologize for “Comfort Women”, already”

    1. Adamu Says:

      It’s funny you mention that he finally apologizes because Norimitsu Onishi at the NYT went with the headline “Japan Again Denies Role in Sex Slavery” even though the website also hosts an AP article with the headline the Abe “apologizes again.”

    2. debito Says:

      COMMENT FROM A FRIEND. DEBITO

      History washing scrubs on. My Okinawan wife has been grumbling all day, pissed off about reports in today’s Ryukyu Shinpo that MEXT well be deleting from all approved history textbooks all references to the fact that the Japanese military forced civilians to commit mass suicide–this despite the fact that there are quite a few thousands people still alive here who were alive then to witness the fact–and even, in some cases, survived.

      Well, I told her, first you lie to your people about what Japan did overseas in Asia to make so many of them mistrust or despise Japan to this very day, so the people can be genuinely perplexed about why Japan is so distrusted. It makes it so much easier to convince them that they are unjustly picked on by envious neighbors. It also makes it easier to eliminate the unpleasant truths about the government’s reprehensible treatment of native ethnic minorities. That makes it so much easier to miscast any disgruntled people like Okinawans or Ainu as less than true Japanese after all.

      I have my doubts that Okinawan schoolboards will go along with this, but of course it’s not the Okinawans that MEXT is concerned about–it never has been, not ever, beyond efforts to eradicate Ryukyuan languages as common tongues–but how Japanese elsewhere remember the war and can honestly deny that it ever happened according to the history that they were taught.
      ENDS

    3. debito Says:

      UPDATE NOVEMBER 2007:
      U.S. got Abe to drop denial over sex slaves

      Whaaa…? When I read this, I thought this article had popped in from another dimension: The Bush Administration actually caring about human rights? Putting pressure on Abe to change his stance regarding the Sex Slaves issue? Pinch me. Finally, some of the backroom negotiations come out. Arudou Debito in Sapporo.

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

      U.S. got Abe to drop denial over sex slaves
      Kyodo News, from The Japan Times: Friday, Nov. 9, 2007
      http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20071109a2.html

      The United States warned Japan in March that Washington could no longer back Tokyo on the issue of North Korea’s past abductions of Japanese unless then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reversed his contentious claim that there was no proof that the Imperial forces forced women and girls into sexual slavery during the war, sources revealed Thursday.

      The warning, delivered by U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer to a senior government official, prompted Abe to change his stance and announce that he stands by Japan’s 1993 official statement of apology to the “comfort women,” as they are euphemistically known, the sources said.

      The 1993 statement, issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, acknowledges and apologizes for the Imperial forces’ involvement in forcing women and girls to work in frontline brothels in Japanese-occupied areas in the 1930s and 1940s.

      Abe sparked an international outcry when he told a Diet committee on March 5 that there was no proof that the Japanese military was directly involved in forcing females across Asia into sexual servitude during the war.

      Schieffer’s warning signaled that Japan-U.S. relations had reached a critical stage. Abe’s remark came while the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee was considering passing a resolution since the beginning of the year urging Japan’s prime minister to offer an official apology to the comfort women.

      Worried by potentially negative developments from Abe’s remark, Schieffer met the senior Japanese official and said the U.S. would no longer be able to support Japan on the abduction issue if the current situation were to continue, according to the sources.

      Japan is demanding that North Korea reopen or newly investigate 12 of the 17 abductees on Japan’s official list — all except the five who returned to Japan in 2002. North Korea, however, has repeatedly said that it considers the cases closed and that no other abductees remain alive.

      Following Schieffer’s warning, Abe, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuhisa Shiozaki, then Foreign Minister Taro Aso and other senior administration officials discussed how the government should respond, the sources said.

      Abe accepted Aso’s proposal to back away from his earlier remark, given the importance of Japan-U.S. relations, they said.

      During telephone talks with President George W. Bush on April 3, Abe said Japan will keep its official position on the comfort women based on the 1993 statement.

      The Japan Times: Friday, Nov. 9, 2007
      ENDS

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