Japan hits back at Beijing-Seoul WWII commemoration proposal

Japan on Friday hit back at China and South Korea, calling suggestions that they could jointly mark Tokyo’s wartime wrongs “utterly unhelpful” as tensions over issues of history shift alliances in East Asia.

The comments came after Chinese President Xi Jinping and his South Korean counterpart, Park Geun-Hye, reportedly discussed at their summit in Seoul on Thursday, the idea of joining hands to commemorate the 70th anniversary next year of Japan’s defeat in World War II.

At a regular press conference in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said such moves were divisive.

“Any attempt by China and South Korea to coordinate in picking apart past history unnecessarily and making it an international issue is utterly unhelpful for building peace and cooperation in the region,” he told reporters.

Both countries were targeted during Japan’s wars of aggression in the 20th century, and China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency quoted Xi as saying Beijing and Seoul could “jointly hold memorial activities.”

“Japan believes that such issues should not be treated as diplomatic issues,” Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in Tokyo after suggestions were made that Beijing and Seoul could also coordinate research on Japan’s wartime sex slavery.

Around 200,000 women and girls, mainly from Korea but also from China, Taiwan, Indonesia and other countries, were forced into brothels to become “ianfu” (comfort women) to provide sex for Imperial Japanese troops as they stomped across Asia before and during World War II.

While mainstream Japanese opinion holds that the wartime government was culpable, a small but vocal tranche of the political right — including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe — continues to cast doubt by claiming the brothels were staffed by professional prostitutes, and by challenging the government’s official apology, issued in 1993 by former Prime Minister Yohei Kono, by setting up high-profile panels to “review” it without actually changing anything.

This equivocation irritates Seoul, which sees it as symptom of Japan’s lack of penitence.

But China and South Korea did not mention Japan or history issues in the joint statement or at a joint news conference following the reciprocal summit. Seoul may be concerned that cooperating too much with China against Japan could harm the three-way alliance comprising Seoul, Washington and Tokyo formed to denuclearize North Korea.

  • http://blog.goo.ne.jp/srachai srachai

    At the time of Korean War, there was a prostitution organization aimed at U.S. soldiers.
    Korean government seems to have been involved in the management.
    This matter should also be investigated.
    In South Korea, relevant court cases are troubling the government.

    • wrle

      That does not make it right for what japan or any other country did. I hope Japan can come clean and honest with their neighbors for a friendly and trust filled future.

      • http://blog.goo.ne.jp/srachai srachai

        President Park Geun-hye seems to hate Japan.
        That’s unfortunate.
        Fortunately, not all Korean people hate Japan.
        I had close friend who is Korean, working together in Oahu.
        He’s a good guy!

      • wrle

        president park does not hate japan. She said it many times that her government wants to foster closer relations with japan because they are a very important neighbor. Unfortunately all these historical issues keep getting in the way. And average South Koreans do not hate japan either, it has nothing to do with race or country, I have a close japanese friend too most wonderful person. There is no need to generalize.

      • Kochigachi

        Well, wouldn’t you hate Koreans for not accepting Japanese terms ? Koreans don’t want to make deals with Japan atm coz Japan is seems hating Korea,

    • Kochigachi

      Yes that should be investigated but comfort women from WW2 is long over due & dying, I’m pretty sure that’s more sensitive matter than Korea’s own internal issue, that’s Korean issue.

  • Maranyika

    Why can`t we all get along? The war is over! forgiveness is the way, to forget is your choice.

    • kension86

      Forgiveness only makes sense when the other side admits her own mistake… Maybe the media should stop interviewing the far-rights in Japan who keep making controversial statements.

      Though to be fair, China/Korea are treating this more as a political tool than a history issue. The PRC especially whitewash their own history much more than Japan did.

      • Yuukiny

        If you guys know their attitude is more like a political tool, why those countries shouldn’t be criticized for less contributing to peace?

    • Kochigachi

      That’s what we’re expecting too but saving faces is too prevailed. They need to forget saving faces and work together.

  • Ernest Schaal

    Of course, the LDP thinks that China and South Korea should not raise the issue of sexual slavery (comfort women) in warfare is normal and okay, in the way the LDP thinks women are “baby-making machines” and that it is alright to heckle women who refuse to accept their status as inferior to men. The issues of sexual slavery and sexual harassment won’t go away, no matter how much the misogynistic LDP wants them to.

  • Demosthenes

    I don’t see why China and South Korea can’t do this. Japan commemorates the dropping of the Atomic Bomb, but no one considers that a US-Japan political issue.

    • Kochigachi

      I’m pretty sure Japanese are seeking revenge over that but only Americans don’t know.

  • Jamie Bakeridge

    Regardless of where you stand on who is right and wrong in all this, it is clear who is losing the diplomatic and international relations battle. The damage this is doing to Japan’s international image is incalculable. At the heart of this lies a Japanese Foreign Ministry with a very naive and almost childish approach to diplomacy and politicians in Japan exploit this with a media that does not look beyond base rabble rousing and never seriously questions the damage done to Japan’s image.

    • Demosthenes

      Absolutely spot on. Japan is becoming isolated in the Asia-Pacific region, not only by the diplomatic moves of other countries but by their own actions as well. I often wonder that, if war between China and Japan broke out, would South Korea back Japan or China? I always figured the case would be clear-cut in favor of a U.S. ally, but with the history between Japan and Korea and the recent strategic moves being made be Xi Jinping, I’m not so sure anymore.

      • kyushuphil

        Japan could build human bridges, connections among people.

        It could do a program in many high schools where students write essays, eventually in English, about themselves as they see themselves set for good and for ill — it’s always complicated — in their own cultures.

        They could send batches of their essays to similar groups in Chinese and Korean high schools, who then reply, citing their own similar personal issues in their own similar cultural contexts.
        It could happen.

        Or the usual idiots atop government and the usual status quo zombies in schools could keep all stupidly recycling all the oldest stupidities.

      • Kochigachi

        South Korea won’t back China and certainly not Japan in time. But Seoul might back Beijing if China let Seoul to take control over North Korea.

  • qwerty

    Yeah it did but it’s taking it back now

    • Kochigachi

      When? I don’t remember, lip service doesn’t help, it needs action.

  • Kochigachi

    In East Asian geopolitics, there’s only three major countries: China, Japan & Korea, if China go hand with hand with Korea against to Japan then Japan is screwed, they will need U.S help but will Washington help Japan ? If they do that will bring Russia into sensitive geopolitics so it will be China-Russia-Korea vs Japan-U.S, and coz Koreans knows everything about Japan, Japan will be biggest loser out of this pact. Seems Japan have been exposed with their weaknesses too much. Japan had all these decades to forge closer ties with Koreans but they gave that away. Who ever gets Korea onto their side wins the game.

  • Kochigachi

    Yes there is easy way for Japan, give up Dokdo, Sea of Japan, Tsushima and Senkaku to them and apologized for war time atrocities and closed down Yasukuni shrine then they’re leave Japan alone. Wasn’t this was what they’ve asked for, this isn’t hard to achieve coz it was originally taken from them during war. If thief steals someone’s property then thief must be punished and victims should be rewarded – this is real justice.