July 17, 2014 by Water Wisdom
To excuse the inexcusable, Japan again resorts to obfuscation
Jun 28th 2014 | TOKYO | From the print edition
FOR years, Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, has been playing with diplomatic fire over a sordid part of wartime history: the herding of thousands of women across Asia into Japanese-army brothels. An investigation he ordered into a landmark apology to the “comfort women” might have helped end the controversy. Instead, it has further muddied the waters. That may indeed have been Mr Abe’s intention.
The 1993 apology, known after its author as “the Kono statement”, acknowledged the army’s role in forcing women into sexual slavery. Nationalists say the women were prostitutes who volunteered. They demand the statement’s withdrawal, while the Yomiuri, Japan’s most popular newspaper, has called for it to be changed.
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The battle for Japan
Looking for loopholes
Better late than never?
Ask no questions
Over a barrel
Government and politics
Still no comfort for them
On June 20th a government panel set up by Mr Abe said the facts used to draft the statement were accurate and there are no plans to change it. But the panel also revealed that it was the product of months of secret negotiations with South Korea. The diplomatic record reveals protracted discussion on the level of coercion used, with Japan implying some women may have gone to brothels voluntarily.
The Yomiuri cites the report as evidence that the Kono statement is full of problems. Koichi Hagiuda, a special aide to Mr Abe, has led the backlash, demanding that Mr Kono explain himself to the parliament, the Diet. But South Korea is also angry at what it sees as another attempt to corrode the Kono statement’s credibility. Cho Tae-yong, a deputy foreign minister, accused Japan of “egocentrically” editing the record of what had been discussed.
In his first term as prime minister in 2007, Mr Abe raised hackles by denying there was proof comfort women were coerced. But this March, under pressure from America, which badly wants to mend relations between Japan and South Korea, he pledged not to revise the statement. On issues involving Japan’s wartime past, Mr Abe often seems torn between his nationalist instincts and diplomatic necessity.