Monday, August 13, 2007

De re Tao Wenzhao

Rescued from comments, reader Zhao-Hong Wenguo* has posted a more complete translation of the People's Daily op-ed (the Chinese version can be found here) analyzed by the Sankei Shimbun in an article published on August 10.

I have taken the liberty of putting Zhao-Hong Wenguo's amendations in red, so as to make the differences more visible

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.

First, my thanks to Zhao-Hong Wenguo for the effort of tracking down's Tao Wenzhao's original text and translating the missing sections.

Second, now that we have a better version of the original, we can go back to my confused mutterings about the Sankei Shimbun's representation of the content of the Tao op-ed.

Right off, I see is that the full Tao text does have a indeed have a reference to "right-wing." I hereby retract my complaint on that point.

Now "rebuke" (斥责) is much closer to "warning" (警告 - keikoku)than anything in the previously published English version. Looking at the characters, however, the emphasis in the People's Daily title seems to be on the U.S. replying to a Japanese assertion, while the emphasis in the Sankei's version is the U.S. threatening Japan, firing a warning shot across its bow.

Linguists, please tell me I'm wrong.

Even in the extended form provided by my very esteemed reader, the Sankei Shimbun's purported quotes are nowhere to be found.

I guess Tao Wenzhao needs to call up the Fuji Sankei Group and ask for a retraction.


1) When I read the lines:

"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."

I said to myself, "It has to be Seki Sekō Hiroshige. Only Seki Sekō could get an assessment of the public mood so utterly wrong."

Checking the Chinese text, the aide in question is Seki Sekō Hiroshige.

Seki Sekō has been the ruination of Abe Shinzō on the domestic front too. Why does he still have a job?

2) The Prime Minister of 1999 in the Zhao-Hong Wenguo translation was Obuchi Keizō.


* Likely a pseudonym...and why not--it is a hell of pseudonym.


Anonymous said...

One little detail: Are you sure it's Seki Hiroshige, and not Sekō Hiroshige? Sekō-san is not a good PR, is he?

Anonymous said...


…Only when all contribute their firewood can they build up a strong fire.

I am honored and humbled that you used my little effort in your blog.

I think that you are correct that the “emphasis in the People's Daily title seems to be on the U.S. replying to a Japanese assertion, while the emphasis in the Sankei's version is the U.S. threatening Japan, firing a warning shot across its bow.”

The Chinese text is stronger than the English version in the China Daily. In other words, the effect of the China Daily's edited version of Tao Wenzhao's article (which he has just told a colleague of mine that it was first published in the Hong Kong Ta Kung Pao, not in the overseas edition of the People's Daily and that the PD did the editing) was to soften it somewhat -- but not by much.

A colleague is also checking the Japanese version of PD, however I am sure you have already.


Zhao-Hong Wenguo

Anonymous said...

Yes, your “French Reader” is correct. The person in question is Hiroshige Seko. He is the PR adviser to PM Abe and he visited Washington in February after the Comfort Women hearing and during the Congressional February recess. Seko visited a number of the editorial boards in DC and NY as well as opinion leaders in DC.

If I may, you might find the following translation of interest from the Shukan Bunshun. Please note that either the translator or writer has the State official's name incorrect, it is, Kathleen Stephens and she is Hill's right hand person and she did want a briefing on the issue after the meeting:

"Abe Administration's PR Officer 'Publicizes' Comfort Women Issue in US Papers" Shukan Bunshun in Japanese 22 Mar 07 p 56

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is facing increasing criticism around the world on the comfort women issue. An editorial of The New York Times (6 March issue) criticized him and said "Abe should apologize." On 8 March, the same paper carried testimonies by former comfort women under a sensational headline, "Sex Slaves" on its front page. This wave of criticism has spread to other countries in the world, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is frantically trying to put out the fire.

However, why is it that the comfort women issue is receiving such attention in the US media now? Actually, somebody started the fire -- namely, Abe's assistant for public relations, Hiroshige Seko.

Seko visited the United States from 19 February. He went on the trip declaring confidently to Kantei [Prime Minister's Official Residence] officials that, "I am going to explain how Prime Minister Abe really feels" about the resolution on Japan's apology to the comfort women submitted to the US House of Representatives.

However, a Kantei source says: "Mr Seko's plan was off the mark. He made the visit to the United States in full knowledge of the fact that the House of Representatives was in recess for a week for holidays, and members of the House had all went home to their constituencies. As a result, he wasted over 2 million yen of government money flying to the United States on first class and yet failed to meet even one single Congressman."

The only official he managed to see was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Pamela Stevens, a subordinate of Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill.

The same Kantei source observes: "No Diet member would bother to travel all the way to meet such a low ranking official. Moreover, Ms Stevens knew nothing about the comfort women issue itself, and the meeting, ironically, made her think 'this is serious'."

Furthermore, what Seko did was counterproductive. He paid a visit to The New York Times, which started the controversy, the three major TV networks, and other leading media organizations.

A reporter in the United States says: "The comfort women issue is one of the human rights issues that have been taken up repeatedly in the Lower House. Nobody cared about it. Since the prime minister's assistant paid visits to media organizations specifically for this issue, this served to attract undue attention. In the first place, it was best to just ignore the resolution since it is not legally binding anyway."

After returning home, Seko reported to Abe that he "met a total of 60 people," but he hid the fact that he had not met even a single Congressman, whom he was supposed to persuade. Recently, he has been lying to reporters that "the comfort women issue was not discussed at all during the US trip."

A reporter covering Kantei laments that, "Although five assistants to the prime minister have been appointed, they all have nothing to do. That is why things like this happen."

The true worth of Seko, who thinks of himself as a "public relations professional," is being called into question.

MTC said...

The French Reader and Mr. Wakeman:

Thank you for the correction. It is of course Seko Hiroshige.

And yes, he has been Abe Shinzo's albatross. When I saw him standing beside Abe atop the van on campaign stops in July, alternating between a specious grin and a counterfeit look of determination, I could see defeat written in the wind.

MTC said...

zhao-hong wenguo -

No, no thank you for your generous contribution.

As for the Japanese version of Tao's op-ed, it is very brief, more of a summary really.