History distortedIn a cabinet meeting on Friday Japan formalized its position that “among the evidence it has discovered so far, it has not come across anything that directly shows that the Japanese military or authorities forcibly led” women into sex slavery during World War II. The cabinet then stated that it stood by the 1993 Kono statement which acknowledged the existence of wartime brothels and coercion in the use of sex slaves.
The latest controversy on this issue began when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said there was no paper trail proving coercion in the narrow sense of soldiers abducting women for the purpose of prostitution, despite the testimony of those Koreans who were victims of sexual slavery. The prime minister has also said that he, too, stands by the Kono statement. Friday’s cabinet conference seems to have been an expression of support by the Japanese government for the prime minister.
A bill is pending in the U.S. House of Representative asking Japan to finally “acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery.” At the hearings on the bill, some of the women who endured Japanese enslavement were invited to testify before the U.S. Congress for the first time. The international media have decried Mr. Abe’s callous comments. No doubt, the Japanese government is feeling the heat. Its decision on Friday, however, to deny even the basic spirit of the Kono statement under the pretext of “lack of evidence” was abhorrent. Is it so hard for Japan to confess to its past sins and to teach subsequent generations never to repeat them?
Even the Kono apology was half-hearted. There was no information about how many women were enslaved and how they were treated. Still, it was admitted that “the Japanese military was directly or indirectly involved ” and that women “were recruited, in many cases against their own will.”
Tokyo’s cabinet meeting on Friday denies even the lukewarm acknowledge of the Kono Statement. Already, some members of the Liberal Democratic Party are trying to abolish the statement altogether.
Why would Thomas Scheiffer, the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, say he thinks the comfort women were “raped by the Japanese military” if there is no evidence of that? The discrepancy that exists between the Japanese government and the rest of the world comes from the distorted and deceitful view of history held by Prime Minister Abe and the Japanese leadership.