Japan’s Abe threads the needle
STRINGER/AFP How much time did the staff of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spend crafting this morning’s remarks to members of the U.S. Congress on the sex slaves brouhaha? They were very carefully done. Abe, who is now hanging out at Camp David with President Bush, is “sorry” about the plight of “comfort women” who ...
How much time did the staff of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spend crafting this morning’s remarks to members of the U.S. Congress on the sex slaves brouhaha? They were very carefully done. Abe, who is now hanging out at Camp David with President Bush, is “sorry” about the plight of “comfort women” who were forced—by whom, he doesn’t say—to service the Japanese military during World War II. He supports a 1993 declaration that acknowledged the Japanese military’s active role in sex slavery, but he won’t explicitly repeat it.
South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reports, citing anonymous congressional aides, that this artful dodge was not artful enough to satisfy U.S. lawmakers, who left the meeting “puzzled” by Abe’s stance. That may lend momentum to Congressman Mike Honda’s resolution demanding a formal, unequivocal apology from Japan. Honda issued a short statement today welcoming Abe’s latest comments, but reiterating his call for a formal, unambiguous statement from the Japanese government.
Abe had more success with the White House, where he evidently convinced President Bush not to remove North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism just yet. As former top U.S. negotiator Robert Gallucci explained to FP recently, “while the North Koreans were guilty of some kinds of atrocious acts of terrorism in the past, we haven’t associated North Korea with terrorists for decades.” North Korea claims it has accounted for all of the Japanese citizens it kidnapped in the 70s and 80s, but Abe has complicated the six-party talks by demanding that the issue be resolved to his satisfaction. Which is not to say that North Korea hasn’t done enough to muck them up on their own.
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