NEW YORK – Representatives from China and the two Koreas criticized Japan over historical issues at a Monday executive board meeting of the U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, Japanese officials at the world body said.
Their criticism was leveled at Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to war-related Yasukuni Shrine in late December and the issue of wartime sexual servitude.
“The Japanese government has not yet apologized or paid indemnities vis-a-vis the ‘comfort women’ issue,” Yao Shaojun, counselor of the Chinese delegation, said in a statement at the meeting of U.N. Women, as the organization is more commonly known.
“On the contrary, it has been attempting to reverse the verdict on its history of aggression,” Yao said, condemning Abe’s visit to Yasukuni, which honors Class-A war criminals along with Japan’s war dead.
A North Korean representative said the use of comfort women — girls and women mainly from the Korean Peninsula who were forced into prostitution for Japanese soldiers before and during World War II, was a crime against humanity.
The representative also denounced Abe’s Yasukuni visit, noting that war criminals are honored there.
Kim Jung-ha, counselor of South Korea’s Permanent Mission to the U.N., said in a statement that “the Japanese government still denies its legal responsibility” toward the comfort women.
“Furthermore, it is also deplorable that leading Japanese politicians have recently been attempting to deny and even justify past wrongdoings with an attitude of historical revisionism,” Kim said.
In response to the statements, the Japanese mission on Tuesday distributed documents explaining Japan’s position on the issues of Yasukuni Shrine and comfort women to the 40 other member states of the executive board.
Envoy fights back
Japan’s ambassador to Germany rebutted Chinese criticism of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent contentious visit to Yasukuni Shrine in an article published Tuesday in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
Japan has never raised questions about the international order after World War II, Takeshi Nakane wrote.
The comments came after his Chinese counterpart, Shi Mingde, described the shrine visit as a challenge to the postwar order in an article in the Jan. 14 edition of the German newspaper.
Nakane said the prime minister during the visit to the shrine pledged to never wage war again based on his deep remorse for the past.
He wrote that the region is more concerned by China’s military buildup and its attempts to change the status quo by force.
Nakane also disputed Shi’s insistence that Japan’s attitude toward wartime history contrasts sharply with that of Germany. Shi said that if Japan adopts a similar stance, it would win trust from countries in Asia and around the world.
Nakane said that the situation surrounding Japan is different in that Germany was offered a hand of reconciliation from its neighbors. He said he hopes Beijing will agree to resume dialogue with Tokyo.