Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Oliver Stone's address at Hiroshima, August 2013

Stone's speech at the memorial probably took the audience by surprise if not aback. If's only about 11 minutes long but worth every bit of it.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Never forget sexual slavery as part of Japan's WWII history

First posted in Asia Times

By Mike Honda, Lillian Sing and Julie Tang
“Comfort Women” is a euphemistic term for the hundreds of thousands of girls and women who were kidnapped and sexually enslaved by the Imperial Japanese Army during WWII. From 1931-1945, Japanese military forced young women from over 13 countries into sexual slavery for the “comfort” of Japanese soldiers. 
For the first time in 1991, a former Korean “comfort woman” victim, Hak Soon Kim overcame a lifetime of shame to speak up publicly about her personal experience of sexual enslavement by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces. Her testimony shocked the world.  
This is the first time in modern history that a government is accused of systematic implementation sexual violence and sex trafficking.  Many more “comfort women” victims followed Hak Soon Kim’s courageous example and told their stories and experiences to the world.  
Their testimonies helped move the world community to declare that using sexual violence as a weapon of war constitutes a crime against humanity for which governments must be held accountable.    
In 2007 the United States Congress passed House Resolution 121 which urged the Japanese government to “formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery.” 
The Japanese government heavily lobbied against the resolution, arguing it was a Japan-bashing propaganda, rather than an important human rights issue of institutional sexual violence against women during wartime.  
So that the atrocity these women suffered would not be forgotten, a multi-ethnic non-profit organization consisting of more than 38 organizations called “ComfortWomen” Justice Coalition (CWJC) was established in San Francisco in 2015 with the purpose to install a “comfort women” Memorial in US and to demand Justice for the “comfort women” victims.
Lee Yong-soo, a former “comfort woman” survivor from South Korea came to give the movements in the US a tremendous boost.  Grandma Lee, as Americans fondly called her, came and personally testified before the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 2015 in support of a resolution to allow a public memorial to be built in San Francisco as she did in 2007 before the United States Congress.  
Her testimonies were crucial in getting both the Resolutions successfully passed.  She put a real face to the issue, became the soul of the movement, and was the living testimony of what happened to the “comfort women” victims.   
Her message was that the history of the “comfort women” should not be forgotten, and the government of Japan must issue a sincere, unequivocal and legal apology and pay reparations to the “comfort women” victims.   Her goal was to educate the history of “comfort women” to the world.
On May 9th, 2020, Grandma Lee made news again.  She accused the Korean Council for Justice and Remembrance for the Issues of Military Sexual Slavery by Japan (JDH) and its former head, Yoon Mi-hyang, of financial impropriety over funds that were donated for the benefit of the “comfort women” survivors.  
She also accused the organization of straying from the goals and purposes of the movement by focusing too much on demonstrations and not on education, especially for the Korean and Japanese youth
It is never easy to speak up when one sees wrongs and injustices.  Grandma Lee is very courageous to do so.  She has nothing to gain for doing this.  We understand the prosecutors in ROK are already conducting an investigation into the allegations.  We urge the investigation be full, and thorough without any political considerations.  
However, we are also concerned that Japan under Prime Minister Abe is attempting to use this financial irregularity to dishonor our righteous fight for justice for all “comfort women” victims and survivors.  
The media in Japan is reporting on the financial scandal in Korea as if to discredit the movement and argue that the Peace Monuments around the world should be dismantled.  
Japan to this date continues to deny its role in the “comfort women” atrocity, refuses to teach their young people the history of the “comfort women” and claims the issue has been resolved. 
The victims and the peace memorial communities continue to insist on a sincere and official apology from Japan, one that necessarily needs to be ratified by the Japanese Diet. 
Instead, Japan’s official efforts to block memorials from being built and objections to inclusion of “comfort women” documents into the UNESCO registry of records is admission that Japan is not ready to face history and atone for its war crimes against the “comfort women”.  
The grandmas who started this movement urged us to pursue justice and fight sexual exploitation everywhere.  Grandma Lee reminded us the job is still unfinished.  Let’s pay attention to her message and work in solidarity to restore justice and honor for the “comfort women” victims and survivors. 
                        #                                              #                                              #   
Mike Honda is a former Congressman from California and author of HR 121, 2007. Judges Lillian Sing and Julie Tang are both retired judges from San Francisco who retired to build the San Francisco “Comfort Women” Memorial and have co-chaired the “Comfort Women” Justice Coalition since 2015 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Japan's national obsession with the denial of Japan's atrocities in WWII

Even though this review of tour of museums in Japan comes from a Chinese website, the article is written by a well known British historian and in English. It is one of the best written essay on Japan's national affliction (i.e., mass amnesia) that I have read.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Exhibit of American GIs in WWII POW Camp

This piece first appeared in Asia Times.

George Koo NOVEMBER 24, 2017 4:47 PM (UTC+8)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Taiwan, a bystander victim in the South China Sea dispute

This was first posted on Asia Times.
Over the weekend, the BaoDiao folks in the Bay Area held a press conference to voice their protest against the South China Sea ruling by Permanent Court of Arbitration in Hague.
Supporters pose for photos with Taiwanese fishermen before setting sail to Itu Aba, which Taiwan calls Taiping, in protest against a tribunal's ruling on the South China Sea, in Pingtung, Taiwan
Supporters pose for photos with Taiwanese fishermen before setting sail to Itu Aba, which Taiwan calls Taiping, Taiwan’s sole holding in the disputed Spratly Islands, in protest against a tribunal’s ruling on the South China Sea, in Pingtung, Taiwan July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Damon Lin
The ruling has turned the largest island and the only one held by Taiwan, the Taiping Island, into a rock and denied the Taiwan government of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
BaoDiao is Chinese shorthand for the movement to defend China’s sovereignty over the Diao Yu Islands in East China Sea. The movement began in 1972 in response to the US handing over the islands to Japan. (The Japanese government calls them Senkaku Islands.)
According to the Cairo Conference and subsequent Potsdam Declaration, the terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender to end WWII include giving up all claims to outlying islands in the Pacific, Diao Yu Islands included. The American government reneged on the terms in favor of Japan at the expense of China.
The tug of war over the Diao Yu Islands continues to this day and BaoDiao chapters in various forms have proliferated around the globe wherever significant numbers of overseas Chinese reside, as well as, of course, in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the mainland.
A lighthouse is seen in Itu Aba, which the Taiwanese call Taiping, at the South China Sea,
A lighthouse is seen in Itu Aba, which the Taiwanese call Taiping, at the South China Sea, March 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Handout via Reuters
Some of the original joiners of that movement were student hotheads in those days. Now, the remaining ones are senior citizens who nonetheless continue to be full of passion and feelings to defend what has rightfully belonged to China. The Bay Area folks mostly identify “China” as the Republic of China or Taiwan.
At the conference, after the organizers rose to present their prepared remarks, some 20 members in the audience were invited to speak. Each got up and spoke in agitation with rising decibels as they expressed their outrage over the acts of American imperialism against ROC’s sovereignty and national interest.
This group vehemently objected to the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s (PCA’s) capricious ruling that rendered Taiping Island (Itu Aba) from an island with 200 mile of EEZ into a rock with a mere 12 mile EEZ. The ruling was made despite Taiping meeting all the official qualifications of an island, namely the island has own sources of fresh water and can and has sustained human life for decades.
Conversely, the US NOAA claims that US possessions of Johnston Atoll, Palmyra Atoll and Kingman Reef do qualify as islands and the therefore the 200 mile of EEZ. None of the three has sources of fresh water and cannot sustain human life. Kingman Reef is even completely submerged at high tide. (These three “rocks” are located in the middle of the Pacific south of the Hawaii islands.)
Japan claims 200 mile EEZ on an outcrop located over 1,000 miles south of Tokyo. Thanks to the use of reinforced concrete to keep the sand from being washed away, Japan government has claimed Okinotorishima as an island. At high tide, highest point is about 6 inches above the ocean. Total area above the ocean is around 100 sq. ft. Needless to say, no fresh water and no way for humans to survive.
However, rocks in the possession of the U.S. or Japan become bona fide islands while a real island in Taiwan’s possession is merely a rock. The conveners were furious over the double standard and the betrayal by allegedly Taiwan’s two best friends, namely Japan and the US.
According to the most recent reports in the media, the Philippines government has requested from the US government the reimbursement of the $30 million spent by the Philippines as legal expenses and fees in filing the case with the PCA.
Apparently, the Philippines served as the stalking horse for Washington and the US has been behind-the-scene instigator of this suit for arbitration.
The official international recognition that Taiping Island and the U shape lines around South China Sea belong to China has been established since 1947. The US even assisted ROC in taking control of some of the islands from the Japanese troops stationed there during WWII.
To challenge China (ROC or PRC) on their claims of the U shape lines around South China Sea is a challenge of their sovereignty. PCA has no affiliation with the UN or with the International Court of Justice and has no legal jurisdiction to rule on issues related to sovereignty. This is why Beijing has ignored the PCA.
The 200 miles of EEC is important to the fishing industry and livelihood of the Taiwan people. The ruling, if allowed to stand, will jeopardize Taiwan people’s economic interest.
This is a clear example of how the might of a hegemon can overwhelm the interests of an island entity of 23 million people. Taipei was not even a party to the dispute submitted to the PCA and was unaware that Taiping Island was included in the litigation.
While Beijing will continue to build and expand the islands in their possession because PRC is strong enough to stand up to the US, Taiwan needs to find allies. In this dispute, the Taipei government shares common ground with Beijing and two sides should stand united in opposing the American hegemony, according to the BaoDiao protesters.
Commentators inside Taiwan are already criticizing President Tsai for acting soft and unwilling to stand up to the US and assert Taiwan’s rights on Taiping Island. They are accusing Tsai of being ready to give up ownership of Taiping Island just to stay on the good side of America—and not have to be an awkward buddy to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The newly elected Philippines President Duterte takes a different view. He has already publicly said, “I want to work with China rather than the US. China has money and the US does not.”
Unlike his predecessor, he clearly understands being on the front line of conflict on the side of the Americans is not a winning proposition for the Philippines.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Celebrating the closure of the comfort women issue is premature

This blog was first posted in Asia Times.

Japan’s Prime Minister Abe got a belated Christmas present from South Korea—some might say the exceptional deal of seven decades since the end of WWII—when the Korean government agreed to formally end any further reference to the sexual slavery Japan enforced on the Korean women during WWII.  Thus, the book on the suffering of the Korean people in the hands of Japan’s imperial troops during the War and 30 years of brutal occupation before the War can be closed and the two countries can look ahead.

South Korea’s president Park accepted a verbal apology from Abe by telephone with the specific proviso that there would be no formal documentation of the apology in print that would benefit the posterity. The apology was accompanied by one billion yen compensation taken from Japan’s government budget, which because it did not come from private donations, was to pass as an official and formal apology. The disposition of the one billion yen was vague and not specifically designated as compensation to the surviving victims of Japan’s sexual slavery.

Japan did require that the statue commemorating the suffering of Korean comfort women be removed from its present location in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. So, I suppose part of the billion yen could be used to relocate the statue so that Japan need not face daily reminders of their shameful past.

Some quarters in Japan praised Abe for his courage in “breaking” with the past. Other supporters belonging to the right wing of the LDP were incensed that Abe made any sort of concession at all and suggested that only seppuku can expiate Abe’s disgrace.

Promptly the day after the agreement with South Korea was announced, Abe’s wife went to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine to pay her respects to the tablets memorializing the war criminals. She even posted selfies of her visit to make sure her appeasement to the right on behalf of her husband did not go unnoticed.

So much for the supposed sincerity of Japan’s apology.

According to various polls, the people of South Korea like Abe even less than they like the North Korea leader, Kim Jong-un. The puzzle then is why President Park so quickly came to terms with Abe. As recently as last November she was not willing to meet Abe much less discuss the conditions that would lead to the agreement. The only logical answer is that she felt heavy pressure from Washington.

Getting South Korea to forgive and forget about the sexual slavery issue might be a diplomatic win for Abe but is an even more important development for Obama. According to his worldview, Obama needed a solid alliance in northeast Asia as part of his pivot to Asia.  However, whether the tie between South Korea and Japan can withstand facing China remains to be seen.

Not that China is likely to challenge the link up based on military force. But as Asia Times reported on “China hits India where it hurts,” China builds its international ties with economic inducements. The piece was referring to China’s development with Nepal, “…so as to achieve mutual benefits, win-win results and common development, and elevate the long-lasting and friendly China-Nepal comprehensive cooperative partnership to new levels”.

China’s approach with Nepal is typical of China’s diplomacy with any country—namely, butter in the form of mutually beneficial economic advantages rather than guns. This approach as applied to South Korea has meant bilateral relations of ever-closer economic ties and increasing frequency of cultural and people exchanges.

Two years before South Korea concluded the Free Trade Agreement with China (in 2015), the bilateral trade with China already exceeded the total trade South Korea had with the U.S. and Japan, their No. 2 and 3 partners in trade. With the large volume of trade, it made sense for the two countries to enter into currency swap agreements so that the trade transactions can be settled in their respective local currency and by-pass the need to pay in dollars. In Korea today, the renminbi has become the only currency other than the dollar that is freely convertible into the won.

About 40% of all the foreign students studying in China come from South Korea, more than from any other country. Second only to the “American Dream,” the “China Dream” has become an appealing career option for many young aspiring Koreans that did not go to America to study.

In light of S. Korea’s “lopsided” (according to Foreign Affairs) economic dependence with China, the Obama administration should consider whether South Korea would act against its own self-interest and side with Japan on any dispute between Japan and China.

Since Obama “won” the Nobel Peace Prize even before he was sworn into his first term, his foreign policy decisions were on many occasions mistaken because he chose the inferior fork on the road. Deciding to rely on Japan, as an ally to counter China, is one of these.

While most Americans are willing to forgive and forget Japan for its WWII atrocities—in truth, many are unaware of Japan’s dark past—people of Asia are unwilling to let Japan off the hook. Abe’s latest apology was a case in point. When Park announced the settlement, the people in Korea rose up on behalf of the surviving “comfort women” and strenuously objected on the grounds that Abe’s apology lacked sincerity, was deliberately vague and did not treat the victims with respect and dignity.

Japan’s response has been to complain that repeated apology has never been enough. After each apology, the critics find fault and demand another. Japanese officials would ask why Japan couldn’t be treated like Germany and not be subjected constant badgering for another apology. But the critics’ response has been that unlike Japan, the German’s apology was official and formal and they have always been ready to admit their collective guilt and never attempted to deny, recant or revise their history with the Jews.

After the Abe/Park agreement, the Korean American Forum of California (KAFC) also vigorously objected. One important objection raised by KAFC was that Abe’s apology needed to apply to victims of 11 nations and not just to the women of Korea. Thus, far from putting the history of WWII to bed, the people of Asia and anybody of conscience will not let Japan forget.

For Obama to pick Japan as an ally is to stand on the wrong side of history. It’s an undeniable fact that America has not always taken the principled high road. But to let Japan erase its past in the interest of expediency and perceived geopolitical advantage is to let the world know that the U.S. supports and condones heinous acts against humanity and could care less about the feelings of the people in Asia.

Obama has encouraged Abe to re-interpret Japan’s constitution and take on a more militarily aggressive stance. But surely a nation that will deny its past can’t be trusted to behave with honor in the future. Let’s hope Obama and the American people won’t have to rue the day Japan was encouraged to take up their sword again.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Abe's speech gets a failing grade

This commentary first appeared in China-US Focus.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s speech on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII proves that he is master of words that couldn’t be reduced to substance.

The past PM Tomiichi Murayama, in contrast, gave the 50th anniversary speech that was 60% shorter, yet was met with more favorable reaction around the world.

The biggest difference was that Murayama expressed his personal “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.” Abe acknowledged, “Japan has repeatedly expressed the feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology,” but made no personal connection to expressions of regret.

In Abe’s near 1700-word, rambling speech of regret, there were phrases here and there that might appeal to those listening intently for a breakthrough in Japan’s attitude about WWII. But the listeners would find no breakthroughs and plenty of fodder for objections.

He began his speech reviewing his version of history that led to Japan becoming the aggressor of WWII. In summary, the colonial western powers with their protectionist economic policy caused Japan to take “the wrong course and advanced along the road to war.” In other words, the West forced Japan into becoming the aggressor.

Abe barely acknowledged the comfort women issue, the one major issue that has bedeviled Japan’s relations with Asia and the one (of many) issue that Japan has not been able to come to grips with. 

Abe said early in his speech, “We must never forget that there were women behind the battlefields whose honor and dignity were severely injured.” Does that mean he was admitting that Japan forced young women and girls into sexual slavery and ruined their bodies and dreams of future?

Toward the end of his speech, he said, “We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honor of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century.” That was it, his total reference to the comfort women issue.

There was a paragraph of remarkable double talk that’s one heck of a head scratcher. He said, “We must not let our children, grandchildren, even further generations to come, who have nothing to do with that war, be predestined to apologize.”

In practically the same breath, he then said, “We have the responsibility to inherit the past, in all humbleness, and pass it on the future.” Huh? Double huh? This is the kind of double speak that leaves plenty of room for future interpretations and misinterpretations.

He didn’t even make passing references to all the atrocities committed by the Imperial troops. His reference to Japan’s unpleasant past was as artful as Hirohito’s national proclamation in admitting defeat.

It has become increasingly obvious that Japanese politicians and government leaders need help in crafting a straightforward, mince no word apology that would be as effective as Willy Brandt’s act of contrition by kneeling before a monument in Warsaw’s Jewish ghetto.

How should an apology sound that would finally put the history of WWII in the rear view mirror for the people of Asia and Japan as well? I have a version to propose to the leaders of Japan.

“To the people of the world, as the Prime Minister of Japan, I wish to apologize to you on behalf of Japan for all the wanton acts of war and brutal crimes against humanity that the Japanese imperial forces committed during World War II.

“I apologize for the destruction of property and killing of innocent civilians.

“I apologize for the rape and murder of women and for forcing young women of all races into sexual slavery in the military brothels that were organized by Japan’s military.

“I apologize for the biological and chemical warfare Japan launched in China and for the live biological experiments conducted on POWs and civilians.

“I apologize for the inhumane hardships that civilians and POWs endured in slave labor camps for the duration of the war.

“I urge all relevant Japanese organizations to quickly make amends to any survivors and heirs of the victims from the aforementioned atrocities.

“I solemnly swear that to ensure history is not repeated, the textbooks in Japan shall describe the unvarnished truth of the War in full and without distortion.”

My version of apology consists of less than 200 words, less than 1/3rd of Murayama’s and about 1/10th of Abe’s. I’d wager less is more. A simply worded apology with clarity and absent of obfuscation would finally put the memories of WWII to rest.

Willy Brandt will be remembered for his act of reconciliation. A place of immortality awaits a courageous leader from Japan for an act of genuine atonement.