On Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe finally made a blanket apology to the sexually exploited women in the Greater East Asian War according to the BBC. He made such remarks in response to a question by an opposition MP:
Mr Abe told parliament: “I apologise here and now as prime minister.”
This appears to be part of a concerted bid to reduce the fall-out of earlier comments, a BBC correspondent says.
Mr Abe said, during a debate in parliament’s upper house, that he stood by an official 1993 statement in which Japan acknowledged the imperial army set up and ran brothels for its troops during the war.
“As I frequently say, I feel sympathy for the people who underwent hardships, and I apologise for the fact that they were placed in this situation at the time,” he said.
So approximately one month after he made a complete ass of himself, of his party and on behalf of the Japanese people, Shinzo-kun makes a blanket apology saying that he feels bad that comfort women were mistreated as the Prime Minister of Japan. Gee whiz, why did it take him so long to do damage-control over gaffes he made a month earlier if he had a good idea of what his words hold as one of the members of the G8 and as the regional power of East Asia?
It’s also notable that this comes after Abe’s Cabinet officially denied the IJA had any responsibility in recruiting and enslave women during WW2:
“There were military nurses and embedded journalists but no ’embedded comfort women.’ It is true that there were ‘comfort women.’ I believe some parents may have sold their daughters. But it does not mean the Japanese army was involved,” Shimomura said in a program on Radio Nippon. Shimomura was referring to the controversial issue of whether the Japanese military was directly involved in forcing women, especially those from other Asian countries, into sexual servitude. Such women are euphemistically called “comfort women” in Japan.
To be fair, it will be safe to say that the government of Japan represented by Shinzo Abe apologises for the wartime government’s exploitation of women and for allowing Shinzo-kun to act like an asshole in public. Finally, this entire incident and potential scandal is over with until Abe decides to say something completely stupid 6 months down the line or when his successors denies another set of wartime transgressions or takes back whatever apologies his predecessors made.
It’s even more pathetic when one realises how this entire controversy started in the first place. The background of this entire controversy on comfort women started when a group of former sex slaves, women’s groups, Asian-American activists and historians wanted to raise awareness of comfort women among mainstream America with the help of Congressmen Mike Honda through a nonbinding resolution condemning Japan for exploiting women in WW2.
It’s a valid point to say that it is insulting and even patronising for a foreign country to condemn another countries for crimes that didn’t affect them, but the goal of the groups was to simply raise awareness of comfort women since the Japanese government is reluctant discuss the issue. As HR 121 was gaining momentum in Congress, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso publicly stated that he disagreed with how the comfort women issue was handled in the United States Congress, to which he has a valid concern. Then, somehow Shinzo-kun decides to voice the same concerns about the nonbinding resolution but also adds that there was no proof that those women were ever exploited, directly slapping the faces of those survivors and creating the perception that Japan officially denies wrongdoing by the WW2 government.
This was about the time the shit started to hit the fan in East Asia. The Americans gave a mild complaint to the Prime Minister since Japan lends money to America and the US needs Japan to act as their regional policeman. On the other hand, the Chinese government found themselves in a difficult position to rebuild bilateral ties with Japan while the South Koreans were going crazy with one man storming the walls of the Japanese embassy in Seoul. Feminist groups from East Asia and the rest of the world continued to aggressively condemn Abe for his remarks while supporters of HR 121 found justification to push forward.
While this was occurring, Abe told the opposition Diet Members that he would not apologise for his remarks while at the same time sticking to the stance in the 1993 Kono Statement, which stated the IJA directly enslaved women as sex slaves. Not long after, his Cabinet issued a statement supporting the Prime Minister in his denial, making it an official denial from the Japanese government. In spite of all the criticism and evidence, many Japanese nationalists and their Japanophile supporters claimed that there was a racially motivated smear campaign against Abe with claims that his response to HR 121 was mistranslated by racist journalists or pointed out obscure anecdotes of women that were allegedly volunteer comfort women and paid what they were promised by the IJA to justify Abe’s claims.
Well, when all is said and done, Abe finally gave a blanket apology, however it is interpreted, to the controversy he escalated himself. As a result of his actions, Shinzo-kun’s approval ratings are at an all time low from voters who were disgusted by his actions to the right-wing that are angry he took back his initial stance. It also doesn’t help that his actions alienated the pro-business faction by making it difficult for their constituents to prosper from improved regional ties and offending the right-wing factions, who wanted him to stand his ground with his revisionist views.
Now I wonder if Abe is going to be smart when the 70th Anniversary of the Rape of Nanjing comes around by keeping his mouth shut and touting the official stance or go off about how it was anti-Japanese wartime propaganda when asked about the issue? One needs to realise that his actions are making it hard for people to buy Japanese products, for Japanese businesses to make money from East Asian markets, and creating an unsafe environment along with misconceptions of Japanese who wish to travel abroad.