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Japanese Sex Slaves February 19, 2007

Posted by David in Japan, North-East Asia.

In war, all parties involved do things that can be considered atrocities and/or just-plain-awful. During the Second World War Japan committed its fair share, as it sought to increase and maintain its sphere of influence throughout Asia.

Officials and representatives, of different levels, have also apologized for Japan’s “aggression” to a variety of groups, organizations and governments numerous times since the end of the war. However, their apologies (and loads of money paid out) don’t seem to be enough, and they’re always being asked to “formally acknowledge, apologise and accept historical responsibility.”

A 19-02-2007 BBC News article talks of the latest call, this time by the Americans, for Japan to apologize for one of those terrible things they did during the war, the use of Comfort Women.

“A resolution before the US Congress is calling on Tokyo to apologise for the country’s use of sex slaves in wartime.” This after they heard some of the victims tell their stories.

In all honesty, I don’t recall if Japan ever did apologize explicitly for the use of Comfort Women, but I know that in 1993  Japan acknowledged “that the imperial army set up and ran brothels for its troops during the war,” and in 1995 “the government set up a special fund, which relies on private donations, to provide compensation.” It should be enough, “but many former comfort women reject the fund and want formal compensation from the government.”

This seems illogical to me because it doesn’t matter which entity forks out the money, it all comes from the Japanese people anyway. Where do you think the government would get the money?

Besides, although I am not attempting to take anything away from all the pain and suffering these women had to endure, I think it is now time to let it go. All that should have been said and done has been said and done.

Furthermore, I do understand why China constantly brings up these types of issues but I don’t understand why the US would choose to upset its strongest ally in North-East Asia with that above mentioned resolution.

Maybe a visit from “Prince Pickles” is in order. That “perky cartoon character with saucer-round eyes, big dimples and tiny, boot-clad feet” (The International Herald Tribune 16-02-2007) is Japan’s military mascot, and apparently “very endearing”. A word or two from him would do the trick.

Too childish?

Maybe the Americans should keep in mind “a new report (The Japan Times 18-02-2007) by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage”, in which he “calls the U.S.-Japan alliance the United States’ greatest strategic asset in Asia and encourages Washington to support Tokyo as a growing global power.”

The report says “the alliance should remain at the core of U.S. strategy in Asia”. Congress better recognize that Japan “stands as a powerful model for the region of what leadership based on democratic values means.”

Doing things that you know will anger your friend, and is not required, is not wise.



1. Shingen - February 20, 2007

The 1993 Kono Statement was an apology as well as an acknowledgement. The question is when will Japan ever truly have its apologies accepted.

You are quite right about the current attention being given to the comfort women in the US. It is certainly counter-productive for its greatest ally in Asia. However, in some instances this is simply pork. Mike Honda is playing up the Korean-American vote. Furthermore, the Abe cabinet has said a lot of things to upset both the US-Japan alliance and the historical sensitivities of Japan’s neighbours. So there is some aspect of putting things right at play here.

What Japan did was terrible, but it’s apologised numerous times and slowly but surely the generation that committed the crimes are being confined to history. Although I accept the idea of collective memory and hence collective guilt to some extent, there comes a time when you must move on. However, sometimes it isn’t that simple, and I think that is the case with issues such as the comfort women.

2. canexafish - February 20, 2007

Thanks for providing the link Shingen. I assumed that the apology had already been offered, but I wasn’t certain. As well, I was being too lazy to look into it any further when I wrote this post.


3. Ken - March 19, 2007

I realize that I’m coming into the discussion a month late here, but with recent developments this has been taking an interesting turn:

Shingen points out that the Abe cabinet (and especially Defense Minister Kyuma) have said things to upset the Bush administration. Thus, Vice-President Cheney did not meet with him on his recent visit to Japan. At the same time, when speaking at the SDF graduation ceremony in Yokosuka this past weekend, Prime Minister Abe stressed the important of Japan’s strategic alliance with the US. This is being firmly taught in the minds of Japan’s next generation of military men.

I don’t agree that the US is, “Doing things that you know will anger your friend.” Mike Honda is but one man, and the rules of the US House allow him to present his resolution, take witness testimony, and submit the resolution for a vote. It may not even get that far, since it would need approval to reach the vote stage. As Shingen points out, Mr Honda is (to some degree) engaging in local politics – trying to please his constituency, to make them feel that he supports their issues. Does that constitute the US being against Japan? No, and it would be a mistake for Abe’s Cabinet to act as such.

At the same time, I don’t see how Mr Honda’s possible political motives would have any effect on the veracity of the witness testimony. Arguing that the resolution came up because of the ‘Democratic Congress,’ or, “Mike Honda’s political opportunism,” or even, “Don’t the Democrats have anything better to focus on?” are all very easy arguments to make. However, none of them has any bearing on the veracity of the witness testimony.

Unfortunately, the Abe Cabinet seems to misunderstand that. Instead of approaching the issue from a political perspective, the Abe Cabinet has sought to discredit the witness testimony and play semantics by asserting that there is a difference between ‘broad’ and ‘narrow’ coercion. This strategy seems bound to fail, as even an autobiography published by a former Prime Minister (Mr Nakasone) includes passages that seem to indicate that Abe is wrong on this matter. Former Prime Minister Murayama just today asserted that there are documents proving that Abe is wrong in his interpretation.

What disappoints me from a political observer’s point of view is that the Abe administration had no contingency plan for this happening. How did they not see this coming and have an organized, well-thought out PR strategy for dealing with the international image?

4. Blogosphere Highlights #2 « I, Shingen - March 19, 2007

[…] Japundit comments on the (at that time) proposed Congressional inquiry into the issue of ‘Comfort Women’, an issue I hope to cover critically in the future. Canexafish at Just Slightly West of the Capital also commented on the moves within Congress in the c…. […]

5. Shingen - March 19, 2007

It certainly does say a lot about Abe’s leadership that he couldn’t even put the controversy down with a clear statement of apology.

That he can’t consider repeating the Kono Statement (rather than simply stating that it holds true) might also say a lot about which areas of support he holds most dear.

Finally, that he bumbled his way about in his poor attempt to distinguish between ‘broad’ and ‘narrow’ coercion was a clear indication that Abe lacks the savvy required for the job and is likely to go the way of Mori: away from the front benches and into the back-rooms of power.

6. canexafish - March 19, 2007

Ken – “How did they not see this coming and have an organized, well-thought out PR strategy for dealing with the international image?”

That is something I have been asking myself as well.

Shingen – “…his poor attempt to distinguish between ‘broad’ and ‘narrow’ coercion was a clear indication that Abe lacks the savvy required for the job and is likely to go the way of Mori: away from the front benches and into the back-rooms of power.”

I’m starting to see a few signs that Shinzo Abe may not be the kind of leader I thought he could be. However, I will stay optimistic for the time being. After-all, Japan’s reaction to this issue might just be a very bad step that will not be repeated.

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