Comfort women statue destroys Osaka-San Francisco ties of trust

The Yomiuri ShimbunIt is unavoidable for one side to end longtime friendly relations as long as a sincere response cannot be expected from the other side.

The city of Osaka has terminated its sister-city relationship with San Francisco. The city of San Francisco made the comfort women statue with its inscription, which had been donated by a private group, into public property. Osaka’s demand that the action be retracted fell on deaf ears.

On the inscription are carved these words: “This monument bears witness to the suffering of hundreds of thousands of women and girls, euphemistically called ‘comfort women,’ who were sexually enslaved.” and “Most of these women died during wartime captivity.”

The inscription distorts historical facts. It is natural for Osaka to have protested repeatedly, saying, that the inscription presents “uncertain and one-sided claims as historical facts.”

There was no response from San Francisco until the deadline set by Osaka.

In nation-to-nation relationships, clashes of national interests occur at times. Different from this, the primary goal of sister-city relationships between two municipalities is to plan mutual exchanges of their citizens to foster friendship and goodwill.

The relationship of trust, which is indispensable to the promotion of friendship, has been destroyed this time. One can say there was no alternative but to end the partnership.

The two cities established the sister-city relationship in 1957. They had deepened their friendship over more than half a century through mutual visits by mayors and student exchange programs.

Dispatch correct information

All these exchange programs have been canceled since late last year when the bilateral relations worsened. The provision of subsidies for private-level exchanges has also been halted.

Anti-Japan activities by some private groups have led to the cultivated friendship returning to nothing. Though San Francisco is to blame, this is a regrettable consequence for Osaka.

In San Francisco, Chinese Americans, who account for a certain percentage of the city’s population, have strong influence. This apparently is a factor behind the city’s slow response to the issue.

Statues depicting comfort women have been erected one after another in various parts of the world. One such statue was installed in the city of Tainan, Taiwan, in August, with previous Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou of the opposition Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) attending an unveiling ceremony. This signifies that there is a strong political motivation related to this action.

When a plan came up to install a comfort woman statue in Freiburg, Germany, its Japanese sister city of Matsuyama explained that the comfort women issue has been “finally and irreversibly resolved” with the South Korean government. As a result, the German city canceled the plan.

No materials have been found to substantiate the allegation that women were forcibly and systematically taken away by the former Imperial Japanese Army and police authorities. To curb the dissemination of mistaken perceptions of history, the government must persistently continue to transmit correct information.

“Comfort Women and Sex in the Battle Zone,” an English version of a book on empirical research on comfort women written by Ikuhiko Hata, has been published. The book is expected to be prime material to back up Japan’s assertions on the issue.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 6, 2018)Speech


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