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The writer of the March 7 letter “Just what is Abe trying to say?” should listen more carefully to what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said. He did not say that no wrong was ever done to women in wartime brothels operated for soldiers in Japanese-occupied lands; he said there was no coercion against women at the central government level. This means no orders exist, no approvals were issued, no budget, no receipts, no records.

Yes, apparently some military units “requisitioned” and forced women into prostitution for soldiers, but anecdotal testimony that the wartime central government was involved falls far short of being evidence. Abe stands by the official government apology issued in 1993, recognizing the suffering of these women. He never suggested they were just common street prostitutes. Unless the reinvestigation indicates the tacit understanding and approval of the wartime central government, the case for coercion by the government will not prevail and the apology for its having occurred in military units will stand.

As for the past abductions of Japanese nationals, it is Abe who doesn’t listen. North Korea says the issue is resolved. Getting North Korea to retract that statement, admit it lied, admit to other abductions, and produce further living abductees (or proof of their deaths with remains repatriated) is simply not going to happen. I believe Abe knows this. The question is whether this issue will be allowed to hold up normalization talks forever.

name withheld

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