Abe’s cynical gameJapan last week released the results of a government-commissioned panel’s investigation apparently aimed at diminishing the 1993 Kono Statement in which then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono admitted and apologized for the forced recruitment of sex slaves for the Japanese Army before and during World War II. In the report submitted to the Diet, the Shinzo Abe government arbitrarily dismissed the historic statement by characterizing it a “diplomatic compromise between Seoul and Tokyo” - in other words, a political deal, not an apology for terrible crimes against humanity.
The Abe cabinet chronicled in detail behind-the-scenes talks between the two countries’ foreign ministers and responses of two countries’ leaders after the issue became a hot potato. Such a move shakes the very foundation of trust between the two countries.
The report concluded that the government panel “could not confirm the forced recruitment of comfort women by the Japanese government against their will.”
The report also described in detail the process of bilateral discussions over the phrasing that was eventually used in the statement. The report said the two sides settled their differences on the wording of the statement just a day before its announcement after the issue of the Japanese Army’s role in recruiting sex slaves and installing military brothels at battlefields became a point of contention. The report also contended that despite such coordination on the wording, Korea even resorted to a media play by announcing that it received a copy of the draft even before Tokyo’s announcement of the statement.
Due to Abe’s denial, the Kono Statement has turned into a document without substance - just like Article 9 of Japan’s Peace Constitution, which still bans Japan from waging war but has become null and void after Abe’s “reinterpretation.” Abe continues to cynically say there is no change in Japan’s position and that he will not revise the Kono statement. But who can believe him now? Denial of the forced recruitment of sex slaves is not only an insult to universal human rights, but also a provocation. Japan’s historical revisionism will only invite its isolation from a decent international community.
JoongAng Ilbo, June 24, Page 34