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Abe tells Asahi Shimbun to help in ‘recovering Japan’s honor’

by Mizuho Aoki

Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe accused the Asahi Shimbun on Monday of tarnishing Japan’s image abroad with its erroneous articles on the “comfort women” issue, urging the newspaper to make efforts to restore Japan’s damaged reputation.

“Many people were hurt, saddened and angered by the Asahi’s false reports,” Abe said during a session of the Lower House Budget Committee. “Given that it has admitted to false reporting, I want (the Asahi) to put efforts into recovering Japan’s honor.”

The Asahi admitted in August that it published erroneous articles in the 1980s and 1990s that were based on false claims by Seiji Yoshida, a man who said he was involved in the kidnapping of hundreds of female Koreans from Jeju Island to serve as “comfort women” in wartime Japanese military brothels.

“I believe freedom of the press is crucially important for democracy to function healthily,” Abe said in response to a question from Hiroshi Yamada, the secretary-general of Jisedai no To (Party for Future Generations). “And because of that, I believe the media bears heavy responsibility.”

In a separate question from a Japanese Communist Party member about relocating U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma to Henoko on Okinawa Island, Abe said the move will lessen the prefecture’s burden because two of the three current functions of the Futenma base will be transferred to Japan’s mainland.

The government plan, which has rocked Okinawa residents for years, has been put into motion since Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima approved the reclamation of an area of the Henoko coast in the city of Nago at the end of last year. After seabed drilling surveys began off Henoko in August thousands gathered to take part in protests.

Abe pointed out that aerial tankers operating at the Futenma base were relocated to Iwakuni, Yamaguchi Prefecture, in August, and that Futenma base’s responsibility for accepting airplanes in emergency situations will be relocated elsewhere in Japan, Abe said that Okinawa’s burden will be reduced by proceeding with the Henoko plan.

“We would like to carefully explain that to people in Okinawa to gain their understanding,” Abe said.