Japan Plans a Fund as Amends for Sex Slaves
Japan as early as Wednesday will announce a 10-year, $1-billion program to indirectly compensate women used as sex slaves by Japanese soldiers and other individuals, who were victimized by Japan’s World War II aggression, a Foreign Ministry official said today.
Socialist Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama will make the announcement and his chief Cabinet secretary, Kozo Igarashi, will spell out the details, the official said.
Designed to launch a yearlong period of self-reflection leading to the 50th anniversary of Japan’s defeat, the announcement will mark a reversal of decades of postwar diplomatic efforts to avoid any form of accepting responsibility for acts against individuals in Japan’s war with China, which began in 1931, and World War II.
It is an outgrowth of an order that former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa issued after the 38-year rule of the Liberal Democratic Party ended last August. Hosokawa told the Foreign Ministry to develop a comprehensive package resolving all issues left over from World War II.
Disagreements over details within the Japanese bureaucracy forced Murayama to hold off announcement of the measures before departing last Tuesday on a four-nation Southeast Asian trip. He will return later today.
Clearing up doubts about Japan’s consciousness of its past is regarded by many--although not all--Japanese leaders as necessary to open the door to an active foreign policy in Asia.
Although governments run by the Liberal Democratic Party expressed “regrets” for suffering Japan caused during the war, no prime minister until Hosokawa ever admitted that Japan’s war in Asia was “a war of aggression.”
Even Hosokawa later toned down that comment to say Japan’s war had been filled with “aggressive acts,” implying that not all of the war constituted aggression.
Since May, two Cabinet ministers--one in the government of former Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata and one in Murayama’s coalition Cabinet that includes Liberal Democrats--were forced to resign after denying that Japan had committed aggression during the war.
The San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1951 and other pacts that Japan signed with all of its wartime enemies--except Russia and North Korea--have settled legally the issue of reparations with each of the countries concerned.
But for individual victims of its wartime acts of aggression, “Japan has done virtually nothing, compared with Germany,” its wartime ally, Igarashi, the chief Cabinet secretary, told reporters last week. Demands have been increasing in recent years from groups of wartime victims throughout Asia and as far away as the Netherlands and England.
A poll published by the Asahi newspaper last week found that more than 70% of Japanese believe that their country has not paid enough compensation to Asian victims of World War II.
The package of measures Murayama will announce will touch upon issues such as repayment of wartime postal savings by Taiwan Chinese who were drafted into the Imperial Army and the repatriation to South Korea of Korean forced laborers left on Russia’s Sakhalin Island after the war.
Taiwan, from 1895, and Korea, from 1910, were colonies of Japan until its defeat in 1945.
But the focal point of Wednesday’s announcement is expected to be the $1-billion fund that will be used to symbolically compensate for Japan’s enslavement of as many as 200,000 women who were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers fighting as far away as Burma. Most of the women came from Korea but large numbers also were conscripted from the Philippines.
The money is to be used to establish a foundation that will build and operate youth centers in a number of Asian countries to train youths, promote exchanges and collect historical materials.
Japanese media also have reported that the government is considering a separate plan to establish a $100-million, privately financed fund from which to make direct payments to victims.
Although President Kim Young Sam said South Korea would seek no monetary compensation for them, groups of the former sex slaves--or “comfort women,” as wartime Japanese euphemistically called them--have demanded direct payments.
The Seoul-based Korean Council for Women Drafted for Military Sexual Slavery by Japan already condemned the proposed youth exchange center plan as a sop by the Japanese government to avoid assuming legal responsibility for the acts of its wartime military.
Lila Pilipina, a Philippine organization of former sex slaves, also demanded apologies to each of the victims in the Philippines, as well as direct monetary payments.
Murayama apologized in each of the cities he visited--Manila, Hanoi, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore--for Japan’s “acts of aggression” and vowed that Japan will never again become a military giant.
But in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed told Murayama that Japan should stop apologizing for the war and start assuming political leadership in Asia and the world by becoming a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.