Abe’s sophistry in full blossom

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Abe’s sophistry in full blossom

In an interview with the Washington Post, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe referred to comfort women as victims of “human trafficking.” It was a careful and calculated word play to avoid outright admittance of organized conscription and enslavement by the Japanese imperial government and military, as well as consequential responsibilities. There are disappointing words from the prime minister who is scheduled to address a joint session of Congress for the first time as a Japanese leader when he visits Washington next month.

U.S. officials and legislators have been unequivocal about their stance on comfort women. President Barack Obama and former State Department Secretary Hillary Clinton have condemned sexual slavery as a terrible human rights violation and urged Tokyo to clear the issue.

Abe will likely mention the comfort women issue in his address to Congress, but will try to escape direct accountability by blaming it on the private wartime human trafficking enterprise. He may have said the phrase in the Washington Post interview in advance to watch the response from Washington.

But what worries us is that such an argument by Abe could be approved by Washington which is keen on strengthening ties with Japan to contain the rising influence of China. It may be that Tokyo was admitting to the existence of comfort women in a big context. With such endorsement from Washington, Abe may push ahead with other agendas to reinterpret past aggressions and expand military sovereignty.

The government must use all its diplomatic power to stop this. It must correct Tokyo’s view on the issue and demand a sincere apology when Abe goes to the podium in Washington. The Japanese government in the 1993 Kono Statement already admitted to using coercion to recruit women to serve in military brothels. Seoul must put its foot down on this issue and make Washington understand that its strategy of pivoting to Asia is not possible through an alliance between the United States and Japan alone.

The U.S. Congress would not be lending its podium to the first Japanese leader to hear sophistry justifying wartime aggressions. The U.S. House of Representatives in 2007 passed the Resolution 121 demanding the Japanese government apologize to the victims and include curriculum about them in Japanese schools. The leader in Japan coincidentally was Abe then, as it is now.

JoongAng Ilbo, Mar. 30, Page 30
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