5:14 PM, Jul 1, 2014 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 2007, during his first term as Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe penned a work titled Toward a Beautiful Country, My Vision for Japan. The recent re-examination of the 1993 Kono Statement on the Imperial Japanese military’s use of “comfort women” during World War II (a euphemism for sex slaves), which was presented to the Japanese Diet on June 20, is the antithesis of the actions of “a beautiful country.” It represents a backward step, reopening a dark chapter in 20th-century history, which most of the world would consider long resolved. Japan, after all, was allied with Hitler’s Nazis and Mussolini’s Fascists and shares culpability for the extensive crimes against humanity carried out by the Axis Powers.
The 1993 statement released by Japan’s chief cabinet secretary, Yohei Kono, found that “comfort stations were operated in response to the request of the military authorities of the day,” and added that the “Japanese military was, directly or indirectly, involved in the establishment and management of the comfort stations and the transfer of comfort women.” According to a June 21 report in the Asahi Shimbun, a re-examination of the Kono statement concluded that “rather than uncover the facts, the main intent was to show the sincere posture of the Japanese government, so no investigation was conducted to back up the testimony given by the women.” The Asahi Shimbun also reported: “The draft of the Kono statement had already been written prior to the conclusion of the interviews with the women.” These new conclusions appear to be aimed at questioning the Kono statement’s accuracy, implying a backroom deal between Tokyo and Seoul in 1993, and casting doubts on the veracity of the testimony given by the 16 elderly Korean victims, most now deceased, who were interviewed in the early 1990s.
But is there really anything sinister about delicate bilateral negotiations aimed at rectifying a historic wrong? The diplomatic history of the United States indicates otherwise. In the mid-1990s a Senate investigation led by New York’s Alfonse D’Amato, and a U.S government report prepared by Under Secretary of Commerce Stuart Eizenstat, determined that the Swiss National Bank and a number of Swiss commercial banks had maintained secret bank accounts established by the Nazis. These accounts held deposits obtained from gold bullion, jewelry, and other valuables looted from Jewish victims of the Holocaust prior to their murders. (In January 1997, a Swiss bank security guard discovered a cache of incriminating documents which were about to be shredded.) The evidence indicated that a number of Swiss bankers served as money launderers for the Third Reich and that Switzerland had turned over only about 15 percent of the Nazi-looted gold to the Allies at the conclusion of the war. Diplomatic pressure from Washington, including a threatened boycott of Swiss banks by the financial center of New York, reportedly angered the Swiss. However, upon reflection and in order to preserve Switzerland’s international reputation, both the Swiss government and private banks entered into arrangements to resolve the issue. Tokyo, instead of fixating on alleged South Korean diplomatic pressure over the Kono statement, would be wise to do the same.
The right-wing extremists in Japan who are seeking to undermine the Kono Statement are ignoring the overwhelming historic evidence that supports its key finding of Japanese military involvement in establishing the comfort women system. Among the most compelling is the eyewitness account of Dutch POW and comfort woman Jan Ruff O’Herne, recorded in her memoir Fifty Years of Silence: “The Japanese officers paced up and down, up and down the line, inspecting each girl. Now they were standing directly in front of me. One of them lifted my chin with a stick to see my face. They stood there grinning, looking at my legs, at my face at my body.” She then describes how she and other young Dutch women were forcibly taken to a comfort station where they were repeatedly, brutally raped by Japanese military officers. Ms. Ruff O'Herne, now in her nineties and living in Australia, gave similar testimony before a hearing of the House Asia and the Pacific Subcommittee in 2007.
Tiananmen Square and truth-telling. Jun 9, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 37 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In a March 28 speech at the Körber Foundation in Berlin, China’s president, Xi Jinping, called for historical truth-telling. He had in mind the Rape of Nanking, the massacre carried out by Imperial Japan’s forces in 1937-38 during their occupation of the then-capital of the Chinese Nationalists (the city is now called Nanjing).
11:51 AM, Apr 28, 2014 • By JERYL BIER
President Obama spent only one night in Japan last week on his current swing through Asia, but the State Department estimated total "lodging nights" required by the president and his entourage could run around 2,172, and the use of "functional rooms" (presumably conference rooms and the like) could last up to 29 days.
8:09 AM, Apr 24, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama met some Japanese robots and didn't like it. "I have to say that the robots were a little scary, they were too lifelike.
9:20 PM, Apr 23, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama is in Japan meeting with the emperor -- and talking about his gray hair.
"I hope you and your family are well," Obama told the emperor, according to the pool report. "I have very fond memories of our last meeting four years ago."
The emperor responded, "We are pleased to welcome you."
According to the White House pool report, "The president told the Emperor that the last time they met, he did not have any gray hairs."
To which the emperor reportedly responded, "You have a very hard job."
Here's the entire pool report:
Is South Korea slipping away?Mar 3, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 24 • By DENNIS P. HALPIN
In 1916 London faced a dilemma. The British were hoping to bring American reinforcements to assist them and their beleaguered French allies in the trenches of the First World War. Woodrow Wilson, however, seeking to become the first Democratic president to win reelection since before the Civil War, was campaigning under the slogan “He kept us out of war.”
America’s Pacific ally displays confidence – and makes a needless slip.11:33 AM, Jan 21, 2014 • By JOSEPH A. BOSCO
Much good news is emanating from Japan, one of America's most important allies, though some of it comes with an unnecessary taint. After decades of economic stagnation and foreign policy reticence stemming from its postwar legacy of pacifism, Japan is back as a strong and confident alliance partner.
7:44 AM, Jan 20, 2014 • By DANIEL HALPER
In recent days, the new U.S. ambassador to Japan, Caroline Kennedy, took to Twitter to express deep concern about the practice of a local Japanese tradition.
"Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. USG opposes drive hunt fisheries," Kennedy tweeted.
Jan 20, 2014, Vol. 19, No. 18 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
You would guess that an agreement between the United States and Japan to move a Marine air base from one location to another on Okinawa would be good news. And it is, for three reasons. First, because there has been opposition to relocating the base on the island, and negotiations had stalemated. And second, because the move is endorsed by Okinawa’s governor, who had initially opposed it.
7:26 AM, Dec 3, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden says that women are not "kinder and gentler" in the work place than men.
"I've never found that to be the case," Biden told a Japanese audience. "They're as tough, they're as strong, they're as everything as a man is - and vice-versa."
Via the Associated Press:
Dec 9, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 13 • By GARY SCHMITT
While Washington and the world have been focused on the nuclear agreement reached with Iran last week in Geneva, on the other side of the globe, one of the parties to that deal, China, was at the very same time making the peaceful resolution of its dispute with Japan over a group of small islands in the East China Sea even less likely.
Sep 16, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 02 • By THE SCRAPBOOK
'Japan PM Abe shakes hands with China’s Xi at G20” (Reuters, September 5, 2013).
A different cure for economic stagnation.Aug 19, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 46 • By CHARLES WOLF JR.
Whether by design or inadvertence, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans for reviving Japan’s economy after two decades of stagnation differ sharply from the stimulus and austerity policies pursued by the United States and the European Union to recover from the deep recession of 2008-2009. These differences augur well for Japan’s prospects.
10:29 AM, Apr 12, 2013 • By VANCE SERCHUK
John Kerry’s first visit as secretary of state to Asia this week will be rightly dominated by the heightened tensions on the Korean peninsula, where Kim Jong-un’s regime continues to generate headlines around the world with its bluster and brinksmanship.