On Wednesday, the U.S. House of Representatives attached to its spending bill a document that urges the U.S. secretary of state to “encourage” the Japanese government to address issues raised in its 2007 resolution on “comfort women,” a euphemism for those forced into sexual slavery for the Japanese military during World War II. Though nonbinding, it was the first time that the “comfort women” issue had been contained in U.S. legislation.
If Japan perceived it as yet another slap in the face, it did so correctly. It was nothing other than a harsh reprimand for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s right-wing nationalist government, which refuses to acknowledge that imperialist Japan forcibly took Korean and other Asian women into its military brothels.
By attaching the “comfort women” issue to the spending bill, the U.S. House was renewing the demand it made in a 2007 resolution that Japan formally apologize for its imperial armed forces’ coercion of young women into sexual slavery. It was also calling on the U.S. secretary of state to put diplomatic pressure on Japan in this regard when it urged him “to encourage the government of Japan to address the issues raised in the resolution.”
Abe’s refusal to acknowledge the coerced prostitution is apparently an extension of his grossly misguided historical perceptions. He appeared to be convinced, as Japanese ultra-rightists are, that Japan colonized Korea and other Asian countries to protect them from Western powers, when he said that “aggression” had yet to be defined, both academically and internationally. No wonder, he recently paid homage to the war dead enshrined at the Yasukuni Shrine, together with convicted Class A war criminals, some of whom were responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack.
Abe’s assertiveness is not confined to historical issues. He is also seeking to revise the peace constitution, more specifically Article 9, which outlaws war as a means of settling international disputes involving Japan. The proposed revision is also aimed at making Japan what it calls a normal state with armed forces instead of self-defense forces.
Japan, as it is moving to whitewash its wartime past and reassert itself, has put Korea, China and other Asian neighbors on alert. It is all the more suspect, now that it has turned aggressive in its territorial disputes with many of its neighbors. Japan has no one but itself to blame if its call for improved relations with its neighbors is greeted with suspicion.