Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Tsutomu Nishioka

【#252】A Burlesque Show of Kono Statement Verification

Tsutomu Nishioka / 2014.06.26 (Thu)

June 23, 2014

     On June 20, the Japanese government released a report on an expert team's verification of the process for creating then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono's statement in 1993 admitting to coercive recruitment of comfort women during war. Since reading the report, I have been outraged, not at South Korea that intervened in the wording of the statement but at Japanese Foreign Ministry officials who have failed to prevent the Kono statement from leading the comfort women problem to greatly damage the reputation of Japan and our predecessors. They have refused to admit their diplomatic failure. I feel angry at their being irresponsible and tricky.

Failed apology diplomacy should be verified
     The verification came after National Diet lawmakers suspected that Japanese officials consulted with the South Korean government on the wording of the statement during the process for creating the statement. As well as Kono, those in charge of creating the statement, including Sakutaro Tanino, then head of the Cabinet Councilors' Office on External Affairs, had flatly denied such consultations. In January this year, however, The Sankei Shimbun scooped that government records pointed to such Japan-South Korea consultations. Opposition party lawmakers then inquired the government about the newspaper story, leading the government to verify the process.
     Nevertheless, the verification report failed to touch on the key point of whether Kono or Tanino, a former senior Foreign Ministry official, told a lie. Instead, it said the Japanese side refused to pervert the facts while making minimum concessions to South Korea's unreasonable demands. The report represented only the government's self-justification.
     The expert group also verified Japan-South Korea negotiations on the payment of "atonement money" by the Asian Women's Fund to former comfort women, which had not been raised as an issue at the Diet. The report indicated that while Japan faithfully collected contributions and attempted to transfer them to former comfort women, the South Koran government's frequent policy changes led Japan to fail to do so.
     Subject to the verification should have been what Japan apologized to South Korea for through then Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa's visit to South Korea in January 1992, the 1993 Kono statement and the Asian Women's Fund that was in operation between 1995 and 2002. Whether Japan's reputation was protected should also have been verified.
     Miyazawa apologized eight times during his South Korean visit even at a time when the Japanese government had not investigated whether any Japanese officials had coercively recruited comfort women during the war. He apologized only in ad hoc response to Japanese and South Korean public opinions manipulated by anti-Japan groups. The Foreign Ministry’s apology diplomacy, where Japanese leaders were advised to apologize for what had yet to be verified, has already failed. The government should verify the process of the failure and specify who were responsible for the failure.

Prime minister-controlled unit required
     This is Japan’s internal problem. Without verifying the diplomatic failure process, the government has explained that the Foreign Ministry fared well in response to South Korea’s unreasonable demands. Such explanation is unhelpful and harmful. The government is required to verify why it has failed to respond effectively to the false propaganda that Japan had had 200,000 sex slaves. To this end, the government must create a unit to protect Japan’s honor, excluding Foreign Ministry bureaucrats. It can learn from the present system where the minister and headquarters for the problem of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese citizens are put under direct control by the prime minister.

Tsutomu Nishioka is Planning Committee Member, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals, and Professor at Tokyo Christian University.