China condemns Japan over WWII sex slaves

// 6 March 2007

China is calling for Japan to take responsibility for its army’s use of female sex slaves during the Second World War, according to a report by the BBC.

The Chinese Foreign Minister, Li Zhaoxing, made the claim following the recent suggestion by Japan’s Prime Minister that women were not necessarily “coerced” into entering the sex industry.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has stated that Japan will not go beyond the apology made in 1993, even though many historians believe that over 200,000 women, mostly Chinese and Korean, were forced into becoming sex slaves. Japanese historians counter this argument with the claim that the women were pressured by private contractors and not by the official forces, a suggestion that decentralises the main issue, which is the deplorable exploitation of women, focussing more on culpability rather than making amends for the wrong that has been committed.

Although there was a compensation fund established in Tokyo in 1995, this relies on private donations, and so many ‘comfort women’ are still seeking recognition for their experiences.

Li Zhaoxing sees this as an important in ensuring improved relations between China and Japan, remarking that the treatment of women during the war is:

“…one of the serious crimes committed by the Japanese militarists in World War II.”

And he added that:

“I believe the Japanese government should face up to this part of history, take responsibility, seriously view and properly handle this issue.”

The US House of Representatives is currently considering a non-binding resolution calling on Tokyo to accept responsibility for their treatment of women, although Shinzo Abe is adamant Japan will not apologise again even if Washington asks them to do so.

The failure to agree on whether or not Japan is responsible for the sexual degradation of these women during the Second World War consolidates the weakness of the female voice in historical documentation.

History continues to be recorded through a predominantly male narrative perspective, and the digression of this discussion to a “this happened, no this happened” exchange of words between these influential men acts as testament to the lack of credibility and importance given to the female experience. The inability to agree on what happened, and Japanese failure to consolidate their previous apology, is devaluing the negative experiences of these women, making what happened impersonal political fodder, rather than giving them the recognition, and the certain place in history, that they deserve.

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