Friday, August 10, 2007

The Sankei Shimbun has a hang up about China

...which is not news.

However, the article on page 6 of the Sankei Shimbun of August 10, 2007 entitled "The House Resolution on the Comfort Women: `A Warning to Japan'" (慰安婦決議案:「日本への警告」) seems to challenge the frontiers of journalism.

It concerns an op-ed by American studies expert Tao Wenzhao published in the foreign edition of the People's Daily on August 6.

Now I do not have the original Chinese, only the English language version released a day later in China Daily and the People's Daily. One would think, however, that the article in English would in some way resemble the Chinese original.

One would think that, yes.

However, the article described in the Sankei report does not share a single point of commonality with the English translation on both the People's Daily and the China Daily websites.

According to the Sankei Shimbun, the Tao's article warns:

Hmmm, looking through Tao's text, I cannot find, "the Comfort Women issue is an acid-test for the Japan-U.S. alliance."

He offers not a single warning.

But wait, here is Tao quoting Mike Honda:

Democratic Representative Mike Honda, who sponsored the non-binding act, said afterward: "The passage of the comfort women resolution is not the end, but the beginning. It is sending a strong signal to Japan's political community."
No, that is not it. Maybe it is the suggestion the title that Japan "should ponder" the resolution.

OK, let's look at the second quote in the article:


The resolution condemning Japan that was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of last month was "a warning to Japan that redounded to the benefit of the Bush Administration."

Look at the Tao article again. See any line even remotely approximating the above passage?

Neither do I.

Let's try another quote:


Until now the voices criticizing Japanese right wing forces were limited to the American private sector. However, this time's resolution became a manifestation of the government's stance."
You know the drill.

Yep, it is not there. The phrase "right wing" does not appear anywhere.

OK, this is getting tiresome. Let us try one more:


"If Japanese conservative forces incite the nations of Asia over the history question, then there will be no escape from effects upon the strategic outlook and the position of Japan's alliance partner the United States will grow more and more unpleasant."

Oh come on. Not one quotation matching the English translation? What is going on here? Were there two op-eds on the comfort women printed four days ago in the foreign edition of the People's Daily--or is the English translation department at the People's Daily just particularly mendacious?

How are we to harmonize the impression created in the Sankei quotes that the alliance is about to blow apart with the Tao conclusion in the English language article?

What impact will this House resolution have on US-Japan relations? The Japanese side appears desperately trying to magnify it. This writer believes it would only cause a few "scratches or bruises" at best. The two countries are close allies with wide-ranging common interests in security, economy and many other areas between them.

"Desperately trying to magnify it" -- that sounds just about right.

The Sankei article intimates that Tao is really a sub-rosa spokesman for the Chinese government, foreshadowing a shift away from the Hu Jintao line of underplaying the history card.

For a surreptitious government spokesman, Tao manages to screw up just about every Japanese name he mentions. He calls House Resolution 121 "the Kato resolution" (boy I hope nobody tells Ambassador Katō) instead of "the Honda resolution." He also misidentifies the Chief Cabinet Secretary who made the 1993 statement on the comfort women. Kōno Yōhei made the statement, not his replacement Takemura Masayoshi.

Now either there was another op-ed on the comfort women in the foreign edition of the People's Daily on August 6...or the Chinese intentionally edit out the sexy parts of their op-eds when they translate them into English...or I am going to have to read Sankei Shimbun articles on China and/or the comfort women with a metric ton of salt.

Somebody please prove me wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I have read with interest your Sankei/People's Daily text comparison. You do a wonderful service reporting on the inconsistencies of Japanese politics. I hope I can be of help.

As you requested, I have taken the liberty to compare the article below with the original Chinese text, which is found at:

This English-language article is clearly a translation from the Chinese. Although I would quibble over very minor points here and there, what is translated is accurate – in fact, the translation is quite good. BUT a good deal of the Chinese text is omitted.

So I have filled in red ink and underlined the portions, which were left out, translating as best I can and hoping it is reasonably true to the original. Now, I see these marks did not survive my cut and paste. Thus look for the bracketed {text}. Please excuse how difficult it must be to read. I am sorry.

One thing that strikes me is that the Chinese tone and terms used are stronger, more forceful than in the English version. Dr. Tao, it should be noted, usually does his own translations into the English.

Japan should ponder US comfort women bill
{The Chinese title reads: Japan’s ‘Amnesia’ and America’s Rebuke}
By Tao Wenzhao
Updated: 2007-08-07 07:12

On July 30 the US House of Representatives deliberated a bill that would demand the Japanese government formally admit that the country's army forced many women into sex slavery during World War II, apologize to the victims and accept its historical responsibility.

After just 35 minutes, those present during the House plenary session unanimously approved the resolution. Democratic Representative Mike Honda, who sponsored the non-binding act, said afterward: "The passage of the comfort women resolution is not the end, but the beginning. It is sending a strong signal to Japan's political community."

This is the eighth such motion tabled by the House of Representatives since 1996, but the first to pass the lower chamber of Congress. None of the previous seven reached the voting stage.

Last September, the House Committee on International Relations (now the House Committee on Foreign Affairs) passed a bill demanding the Japanese government formally admit the Japanese imperial army forced tens of thousands of women to serve as sex slaves, but it was not brought to the House plenary session for a vote.

When the current Congress {(110th Session)} opened in January this year, Representative Honda, a Democrat from California and grandson of Japanese immigrants, sponsored a bill over the "comfort women" issue again.

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs held a hearing about the wartime atrocity, while the Japanese government pulled out all the stops to intercept the bill. {Earlier the Prime Minister’s aide [Japanese name unknown to me] visited Washington and the people concerned to assay the temperature. The Japanese government’s conclusion was: “The level of concern in America is low.” It would probably be like the previous seven times when things turned out all right. And so the Japanese government took a hard stance. On March 1 and 5 Prime Minister Abe aiming directly at testimony before the Committee said publicly: “There is no proven testimony or facts that force was used.” “There is no proof that Japanese officials entered people’s houses and forcibly took people away, in the strict sense of the use of force.” On March 9 he again spoke in the Diet, saying that even if the U.S, Congress were to pass the resolution on comfort women, Japan would not take this occasion to apologize again. Abe’s remarks raised a storm of ill feeling in the U.S. Many in the media wrote pieces refuting Abe. Since Abe was about to visit America, in order to calm the atmosphere, he telephoned Bush to apologize. His wife [Japanese name] in an interview with CNN said “As a woman too, I really feel sympathetic.” On April 16, as soon as he arrived in Washington, Abe made a beeline for the Congress and proceeded to meet with (} During Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's US visit this past April, he requested a meeting with {)} 11 federal legislators, including Congress Chairperson Nancy Pelosi. {This was the first time since Prime Minister [Japanese name unknown to me]’s visit in 1999 that a Japanese Prime Minister had talked with American Congressional leaders.} Abe apologized to his American hosts over the "comfort women" issue but did not retract an earlier comment that there was insufficient evidence to prove the wartime Japanese government was involved in the crime.

In addition to complaints that the American media had failed to faithfully relay what he had said, he also made a tongue-in-cheek apology to former "comfort women" for their "profound sufferings" during the war.

On June 14, a full-page advertisement signed by 63 Japanese nationals {titled “Facts”} was published in the Washington Post. It claimed that no comfort woman was recruited by force {and they were treated well and that prostitution is a worldwide phenomenon. The ad brazenly stated that “these comfort women earned more money than generals.”, that “after the occupation in 1945 the U.S. military demanded that the Japanese government set up comfort women stations, in order to prevent rape.”}

The ad also warned that the comfort women bill would hurt bilateral relations. {The ad created a sensation in the U.S.} The ad, signed by Japanese journalists, scholars and 44 Japanese parliamentarians, angered the Bush administration. {Reportedly Vice President Cheney saying “That ad makes anyone very angry” ordered an investigation into its source.}

The Japanese ambassador to the US also joined efforts to stop the House from passing the Mike Honda act. Just before the House Foreign Affairs Committee deliberated the bill, Ambassador Kato Ryozo warned in a June 22 letter to five House leaders that passing the bill would almost certainly cause long-term damage and impact on the deep friendship, firm trust and extensive cooperation between Japan and the US.

He indicated that Tokyo might reconsider its support for the US in Iraq. Japan's cash donation to post-war Iraq is second only to the US and has recently approved more money put aside for Iraq in the next two years.

Still, {on June 27,} the House Committee on International Relations passed the resolution by an overwhelming majority, demanding the Japanese government formally apologize to all wartime "comfort women".

The House had planned to vote on the Kato resolution on July 26, but decided to postpone it until July 30 to avoid impacting Japan's Upper House election on July 29 or embarrass Abe too much.

The non-binding resolution stated "the comfort women system was unprecedented in terms of cruelty and scale and one of the most extensive crimes in the 20th century".

It went on to say the comfort women system was a work of the Japanese government and demanded the Abe administration acknowledge its historical responsibility, issue a formal apology by the prime minister and heed calls by the international community that Japan's history textbooks not gloss over the issue and Japanese civil servants must observe then Chief Cabinet Secretary Masayoshi Takemura's comment in 1993 about the "comfort women" issue.

The Honda resolution has won widespread applause from the world community except Japan. {Of all the Congressional resolutions in recent years this is the one that has been accorded the most worldwide respect .} Though having no binding power, the bill may still send extensive impact around the world. {The U.S. Congress passes a great many resolutions every year, but very few have to do with matters in which the U.S. is not directly involved. Congressional passage of this resolution has reawakened American politicians’ recognition of World War Two anniversaries, and it shows that denial of wartime crimes by some right-wing politicians and scholars is increasingly unacceptable.}

Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Tom Lantos made a comparison between the contrasting ways Germany and Japan treated their war responsibility in a recent speech. He concluded that Germany had made the right decision, whereas Japan had been parading "historic amnesia".

In the past few years, the people of China, the Korean Peninsula and other Asian nations have been fighting against this "historic amnesia". Now that the House has passed the milestone resolution on the "comfort women" issue, apparently even Japan's closest ally could no longer tolerate Japan's obsession with this "anomaly".

This is not the first time the US has acted on the issue. During his US visit in June last year, then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was allegedly intent on speaking to the whole Congress, but Chairman of then House Committee on International Relations Committee Henry Hyde wrote President George W Bush an open letter, in which he said Koizumi must first publicly promise he would not visit the Yasukuni Shrine ever again before speaking to the Congress.

The Yasukuni Shrine honors Japanese Class-A war criminals that fought American forces during WWII, while the Capitol is the place where President Franklin D Roosevelt delivered his famous speech to declare war on Japan. Consequently Koizumi's speech to Congress was a no go.

The House resolution could push forward the internationalization of the "comfort women" issue. As a matter of fact, the enslavement of "comfort women" is a crime Japan committed during World War II, which has therefore been a global issue from the very beginning.

The Canadian Parliament is currently discussing this issue, while victims in Australia and the Netherlands are fighting the Japanese government for compensation in court. The House resolution has definitely left its mark in all countries concerned.

Nations of the world are still pursuing Nazi war criminals who have evaded justice so far. No matter where they hide and whatever they are doing, they will be brought to justice once they are found. It is a matter of ultimate right or wrong that proves justice must be served.

World War II ended more than 60 years ago, but the Nazi war criminal issue is yet to be resolved for good. And so it is with the "comfort women" issue. Because most of the victims have since passed on without seeing justice done and those still alive don't have many years left, the resolution of this issue must not wait any longer.

What impact will this House resolution have on US-Japan relations? The Japanese side appears desperately trying to magnify it. This writer believes it would only cause a few "scratches or bruises" at best. The two countries are close allies with wide-ranging common interests in security, economy and many other areas between them.

The House resolution cannot damage the root of their relationship as allies, but Japan politicians should better think about country's war responsibility

Again, I hope I was of some little help to your work, which I much admire and is very influential. I am very sorry for the difficulty you may have picking out the additional text that is in brackets. It may be best to print out the text and then search for brackets and highlight the text in between them. I apologize as my computer skills are not the best.

Zhao-Hong Wenguo