National

New NHK chief: ‘comfort women’ only wrong per ‘today’s morality’; programming must push Japan’s territorial stances

Kyodo

The new chairman of NHK said Saturday that its programming for foreign audiences should “state Japan’s positions in no uncertain terms” on territorial disputes with China and South Korea, while defending the nation’s use of wartime “comfort women” and dismissing press freedom concerns about the new state secrets law.

“When the government is saying, ‘Right,’ we can’t say, ‘Left.’ International broadcasting has such a (propagandist) nuance,” Katsuto Momii told a news conference held to mark the start of his three-year stint at the public broadcaster.

Momii, who is rumored to have been the preferred choice of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as NHK’s top official, also made controversial remarks on Japan’s use of the euphemistically titled “comfort women” and the recently enacted secrecy law.

NHK’s programming “shouldn’t be far removed from (the stance of) the Japanese government,” he said, adding that on sovereignty disputes with China over the Senkaku Islands and South Korea over the Takeshima islets, “it is natural to state Japan’s positions in no uncertain terms.”

Asked about the women who were forced to provide sex to Imperial Japanese soldiers before and during World War II, Momii said such an institution existed in “every country” and that it is only considered wrong based on “today’s morality.”

“Things are complicated because South Korea says Japan was the only country that forcibly recruited (comfort women),” Momii, a former president of Nihon Unisys Ltd. and vice president of trading house Mitsui & Co., said, noting he was only stating his personal view.

On possible compensation to the women, as called for by South Korea, he said the matter was fully settled when the two countries signed a treaty in 1965 normalizing bilateral ties.

Meanwhile, Momii dismissed concern about freedom of the press in connection with the state secrecy law, which will impose stricter penalties on leakers of information deemed to be “special secrets” in such areas as counterterrorism and defense.

“Now that (the bill) has been passed, there is no point in questioning it. We will run (a relevant program) if that is necessary,” he said. “It would be a problem if the government’s purpose (of the law) is what the public is worried about. But I doubt that is the purpose.”

On Abe’s controversial recent visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, which infuriated China and South Korea because the site honors Class-A war criminals alongside the nation’s war dead, Momii said NHK is in no position to say whether the visit was “good or bad.”

“He went there with his own conviction as prime minister. . . . In reporting, NHK would just say that the prime minister visited Yasukuni,” Momii said.