Don’t misinterpret comfort women issue
The nub of the issue of the so-called comfort women is whether there were instances of their being forced into sexual servitude by the Japanese authorities.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives is deliberating a resolution against Japan in connection with this issue. The resolution calls on the Japanese government to acknowledge historical responsibility for the Imperial Japanese Army’s coercion of young women of other Asian countries into sexual slavery during World War II and urges the prime minister to apologize for the sexual exploitation.
The resolution says the Japanese military commissioned the acquisition of comfort women. However, no documents have been found to support this assertion. Historians also accept that no such orchestrated action was undertaken by the Japanese military.
We wonder whether the U.S. lawmakers who sponsored the resolution have evidence to back their claims.
At a Diet committee session, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the resolution was “not based on objective facts.” Foreign Minister Taro Aso has expressed a similar view, calling the resolution “extremely regrettable.”
Since the resolution is filled with distortions, the government must properly explain the facts and do everything to prevent it from being adopted.
Kono statement inaccurate
Concerning the recruitment of comfort women, the prime minister stressed, “None of the testimonies confirmed coercion in the narrow sense.”
Abe explicitly asserted that the comfort women were not forcibly recruited, saying there was no “coercion like the hunting of comfort women, with officials rushing into houses to drag women out, like kidnapping them.”
However, Abe acknowledged that private recruiters lured women against their will in a “broader sense of coercion.” These cases are totally different from coercion by the military.
Some mass media organizations and Diet members have stretched the meaning of “coercion” and criticized the government, ignoring the nitty-gritty of the issue and spreading the mistaken perception of the issue.
Why has the comfort women issue been dredged up repeatedly?
The main reason is the 1993 statement issued by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono. The statement suggested that the Japanese military forcibly recruited comfort women, saying, “The authorities were directly involved” in the recruitment of such women.
However, a former deputy chief cabinet secretary and other officials later said that phrase was written without the facts having been confirmed.
Govt caved in to pressure
A group of Liberal Democratic Party lawmakers wants to have the Kono statement revised, saying vague expressions in the statement have led to misunderstandings.
The U.S. House resolution criticizes such moves in Japan, saying they represent their “desire to dilute or rescind the 1993 statement.”
But it could be a natural course of action to revise the inaccurate Kono statement.
What was behind the issuance of the Kono statement was the government’s misjudgment–made under pressure from South Korea–that its acknowledgement that the comfort women were forcibly recruited would lead to the settlement of the issue.
The government should not make the same diplomatic mistake in its response to the U.S. House resolution.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 7, 2007)
(Mar. 7, 2007)