Sunday, July 26, 2015

Monday in Washington, July 27, 2015

9:00am - Undersecretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Sarah Sewall briefing for the release of the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report

10:00am - Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a launch ceremony to release and discuss the 2015 Trafficking in Persons Report, which assesses government efforts around the world to combat modern slavery.

11:15am - Korean War Veterans Association events for the International Korean War Armistice ceremony to include South Korean Ambassador to the United States Ahn Ho-young remarks and the ringing of the Freedom Bell to honor the end of the Korean War at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, National Mall, 10 Daniel French Drive SW, Washington, DC.

EUROPE AT SEA: MEDITERRANEAN AND BALTIC SECURITY CHALLENGES. 7/27, 9:00-10:30am. Sponsor: Hudson Institute. Speakers: Retired British Royal Navy Rear Adm. Chris Parry and Seth Cropsey, director of the Center for American Seapower at Hudson.

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RUSSIAN MILITARY FORUM: THE INTERMEDIATE NUCLEAR FORCES (INF) TREATY AT A CROSSROADS. 7/27, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: CSIS, Russia and Eurasia Program. Speakers: Steven Pifer, Director, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative, Brookings; Amy Woolf, Specialist, Nuclear Weapons Policy, Congressional Research Service; Paul Schwartz, Senior Associate, Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS.

KAZAKHSTAN'S ACCESSION TO THE WTO. 7/27, 2:00-3:30pm. Sponsor: CSIS. Speakers: Ambassador William H. Courtney, President, U.S.-Kazakhstan Business Association; Former U.S. Ambassador to Kazakhstan; Cecilia Leahy Klein, Senior Director for WTO Accessions, Office of the United States Trade Representative; Aitolkyn Kourmanova, Visiting Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Program, CSIS; Michael Lally, Executive Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, Global Markets, International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce.

UNDERSTANDING ISIS AND THE NEW GLOBAL WAR ON TERROR: A PRIMER. 7/27, 6:30 pm. Sponsor: Busboys & Poets. Speaker: Author Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

Japanese deniers distort the Comfort Women narrative they support

Comfort Women at US Congress
Rightists distort author Park Yu-ha’s views on ‘comfort women’

BY Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan.


Park Yu-ha, an academic at Sejong University in Seoul, is the darling of the Japanese right because of her alleged stance on the “comfort women” system. But their cherry-picking of her writings distorts her views and twists them into support for the revisionists’ vindicating and exonerating narrative.

Park presents a nuanced analysis of the comfort women system, one that challenges the prevailing consensus in South Korea, but she is also quite critical of the role Japan played.

Regarding the controversial issue of whether women were recruited through coercion, Park notes in an essay she sent to me that there is no evidence that this was official policy, but maintains that there was “structural coercion” due to colonial subjugation.

Via an additional email exchange in Korean, she adds that she wants Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to deliver an apology to the comfort women in his Aug. 15 speech on the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II and Korea’s liberation. She is pessimistic that he will do so, however, and says this is partly Seoul’s fault.

Park agrees that Japanese reactionaries are invoking her name unscrupulously in conveying partial truths. For example, a recent article in The Japan Times suggested she believes that Japanese colonialism in Korea was moderate, but she says this is a misleading reading of her book “Teikoku no Ianfu” (“Comfort Women of the Empire”).

“If ‘moderate’ is used to imply colonization was not bad, I disagree,” she says, noting that during the colonial era “those who opposed Japan’s modern system and national policies — including the emperor system — were tortured and jailed.”

The history of the comfort women issue has become intensely politicized in South Korea, making it difficult for scholars to publish objective analysis that doesn’t conform to the master narrative of victimization. Park had her book pulled from the shelves by court order and was required to redact passages deemed unacceptable. Public discourse in South Korea elides the role of Korean collaborators who served as recruiters and focuses exclusively on Japanese responsibility. Park is vilified in South Korea as an apologist for Japan, even though she argues that the system was cruel and inhumane and has refused to exonerate Japan.

“Japan is not exempt from its responsibility for the comfort women, who were taken to ‘comfort stations’ against their will and experienced pain,” she noted in an interview with the Asahi Shimbun earlier this year.

In the unpublished essay we received (written in English), Park says there was no monolithic system and distinguishes between what she calls “comfort women” — meaning only Koreans and Japanese — and other Asian “women who were provided on battlefields and were forced to work in the form of semi-constant rape” and victims of one-time rape on the battlefields” that she says should not be referred to as comfort women.

“The foremost premise in discussing the comfort women issue,” she adds, “is to recognize that women made to engage in sex work were always the socially weak, that most of them were susceptible to disease and that they found themselves in a miserable plight in which they faced a constant risk of death.”

Park asserts that most Korean comfort women were from the lower classes and were not recruited under Japan’s school-level national mobilization program, known as teishintai, a point that has caused some confusion. The fact that they have insisted they were recruited through this program has been cited by Japanese revisionists to accuse them of lying and dismiss the comfort women’s testimony entirely. Park disagrees and says there are good reasons for this misunderstanding, stressing she doesn’t believe the comfort women were lying.

Koreans, she says, believed they were forcibly recruited because “recruiters in military uniforms (who acted as civilian employees of the military) deceived them into becoming comfort women by telling them that they were being taken to serve in the teishintai (forcibly, albeit as part of the national mobilization facilitated by the creation of laws, but ‘voluntary’ in form).”

Thus, she concludes that “women with such experiences perceived them as forcible recruitment. In other words, rather than former comfort women telling lies, it is highly likely that recruiters … had lied.”

And for Japanese deniers, she inconveniently points out that “it appears that recruiters were often pairs of Japanese and Korean men.”

Overall, Park blames these recruiters most for the misery endured by the women they treated like sex slaves, but she does not absolve the Japanese military.

“Some Korean comfort women, while traveling with troops on the front lines, underwent the inhumane experiences of being subjected to the insatiable carnal appetite of Japanese soldiers in the line of fire on battlefields and falling victim to gunfire and shelling,” she writes in the essay.

Based on Korean comfort women’s testimony, Park believes that recruitment was largely based on deception rather than coercion, but she believes the consequences for all these women were horrific; none were free to leave once recruited and all were subject to military discipline. The comfort stations were closely monitored by the Japanese military and the comfort women “had no freedom of movement, no freedom to get out of the business and no freedom even to defend their lives.”

In contrast, she writes that “for Dutch and Chinese women, the military was directly involved in the grouping and segregation of them for sexual labor, and the military’s actions literally represented forcible recruitment (for) the purpose of continuous rape of enemy women who were conquered.”

Park also takes issue with recent efforts by politicians in the Liberal Democratic Party to discredit the 1993 Kono statement, which acknowledges Japan’s responsibility for the comfort women system.

“The Kono statement noted that the process of being transferred was against their will and that sexual labor at comfort stations was not of their own choice, thus acknowledging the nature of structural coercion,” she writes. Thus, it “accurately acknowledged that the existence of Korean comfort women was the result of Japan’s colonial occupation, since the ‘involvement of the military authorities of the day’ in the establishment and management of comfort stations is a fact.” Therefore, she concludes, “there should be no need to review the Kono statement.”

In Park’s view, the Diet should go further and adopt a resolution of apology, but in the context of “Abenesia” and the self-righteous nationalism prevailing in the LDP today, such a mea culpa is unthinkable.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Japan's first public corporate apology to its slave laborers

Former POW of Japan James Murphy who was a slave laborer in Mitsubishi Material's (MMC) Osarizawa Copper Mine in Sendai is sitting before this group of bowing MMC officials who had just delivered to him the company's apology for the inhumane treatment he received during World War II.

Among the officials bowing was MMC board member and fluent English-speaker Yukio Okamoto, a well-known Japanese foreign policy consultant. He has been involved behind the scenes in a number of important Japanese apology initiatives. These include the Kono Statement, the Asian Women's Fund, the 1995 Okinawa Rape incident, and Koizumi's 2005 War Anniversary statement. He is on the current prime minister's committee to help draft a statement to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II.

The apology was delivered in Japanese. Although the formal apology word shazai was not used and the POWs were described as being "forced to work" as opposed to "forced" or "slave" labor, the apology was accepted and appreciated. As Mr. Murphy said, "it was a glorious day."

Mitsubishi Material's ambiguous apology, constrained by an impenitent political climate, will be strengthened over time by the truth. The apology is a beginning and an opening. It will allow the POW history to be told and believed. The telling of this history will make it clear that it was Mitsubishi that purchased the men, that forced them to work in horrific conditions, and that allowed them to be beaten and maimed for the war effort. Mitsubishi was not merely a collaborator.

Here is the statement released in Los Angeles, California at the Museum of Tolerance by Mitsubishi Materials Corporation on July 19, 2015. We will post the Japanese as soon as we can obtain it.

Statement by Mitsubishi Materials Corporation 
Senior Executive Officer Hikaru Kimura in the Meeting With 
a Former American POW and Families of Former POWs

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, speaking on behalf of Mitsubishi Materials, thank you very much for this opportunity to meet with you today at the Museum of Tolerance.

Mitsubishi Mining Company Limited, the predecessor of Mitsubishi Materials, was engaged in coal and metal mining during World War II. As the war intensified, prisoners of war were placed in a wide range of industries to offset labor shortages. As part of this, close to 900 American POWs were allocated to four mines operated by Mitsubishi Mining in Japan.

I joined Mitsubishi Materials as a postwar baby-boomer and have worked in the company for 34 years. I have read the memoirs of Mr. James Murphy, who is present here at this ceremony, and those of other former POWs, as well as records of court trials. Through these accounts, I have learned about the terrible pain that POWs experienced in the mines of Mitsubishi Mining.

The POWs, many of whom were suffering from disease and injury, were subjected to hard labor, including during freezing winters, working without sufficient food, water, medical treatment or sanitation. When we think of their harsh lives in the mines, we cannot help feeling deep remorse.

I would like to express our deepest sense of ethical responsibility for the tragic experiences of all U.S. POWs, including Mr. James Murphy, who were forced to work under harsh conditions in the mines of the former Mitsubishi Mining.

On behalf of Mitsubishi Materials, I offer our sincerest apology.

I also extend our deepest condolence to their fellow U.S. POWs who worked alongside them but have since passed away.

To the bereaved families who are present at this ceremony, I also offer our most remorseful apology.

This cannot happen again, and of course, Mitsubishi Materials intends to never let this happen again.

We now have a clear corporate mission of working for the benefit of all people, all societies and indeed the entire globe. Respecting the basic human rights of all people is a core principle of Mitsubishi Materials, and we will continue to strongly adhere to this principle.

Our management team wishes for the health and happiness of our employees every day, and we ask that all of them work not only diligently, but also with a sense of ethics.
Mitsubishi Materials supplies general materials that enrich people’s lives, from cement to cellphone components and auto parts, all of which are closely related to people’s lives. We also place a strong emphasis on recycling for more sustainable societies, such as recovering valuable metals from used electrical appliances and other scrapped materials.

Here in the United States, we have plants for cement and ready-mixed concrete, and a sales headquarters for our advanced materials and tools business, all in California, as well as a polysilicon plant in Alabama. We believe that our company provides fulfilling jobs for local employees and contributes to host communities through its business.

The American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor Museum in Wellsburg, West Virginia archives extensive records and memorabilia of POWs. These records and memorabilia will be handed down to future generations for educational purposes.

I will visit the museum the day after tomorrow to view the exhibits and visualize how POWs were forced to work under harsh conditions. For now, however, I am pleased to announce that Mitsubishi Materials has donated 50,000US dollars to the museum to support its activities.

Finally, I sincerely thank Ms. Kinue Tokudome and the members of the American Defenders of Bataan & Corregidor Memorial Society for creating this opportunity to meet with you today. I also express my sincere thanks to Rabbi Abraham Cooper for offering the Museum of Tolerance as a venue for the ceremony. And I express my deep gratitude to all others involved in arranging this gathering.

I would also like to thank the family members of a non-U.S. POW who have come from very far away to attend this ceremony.

I truly hope that this gathering marks the starting point of a new relationship between former POWs and Mitsubishi Materials.
Thank you very much.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday in Washington, July 20, 2015


THE NEW SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS (SDG) FRAMEWORK: SECURING THE FUTURE THJROUGH INCLUSIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH. 7/20, 2:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsor: Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). Speakers: Trevor Davies, Global Head of International Development Assistance at KPMG; Christopher Jurgens, Chief of USAID’s Global Partnerships Division; Louise Kantrow, Permanent Representative to the UN at the International Chamber of Commerce; Kamran Khan, Vice President of the Department of Compact Operations at the Millennium Change Corporation; Sarah Thorn, Senior Director of International Reade at Walmart; John Sullivan, Executive Director of CIPE. 

GLOBAL DIGITAL POLICY: VIEWS FROM THE UNITED STATES AND SOUTH KOREA. 7/20, 3:00pm. Sponsor: CEAPS, Brookings Institution. Speakers: Ambassador Ahn Ho-Young, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States; Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary and U.S. Coordinator, International Communications and Information Policy, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Min Wonki, Assistant Minister, ICT and Future Planning, Ministry of Science, Republic of Korea; Chairman, 2014 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Plenipotentiary Conference; Moderator: Darrell West, Douglas Dillon Chair; Vice President and Director, Governance Studies; Founding Director, Center for Technology Innovation, Brookings.

GLOBAL DEVELOPMENT AND THE 2016 ELECTION. 7/20, 3:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: Center for Global Development. Speakers: Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development; Michael Elliott, President and CEO, ONE Campaign; Steve Hadley, former National Security Advisor, President George W. Bush, 2005–2009; Tom Nides, Vice Chairman, Morgan Stanley, Deputy Secretary of State, 2011–2013.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Monday in Washington, July 13, 2015

THE FUTURE OF THE U.S.-INDIA PARTNERSHIP: TEN YEARS AFTER THE CIVIL NUCLEAR COOPERATION INITIATIVE. 7/13, 8:15am-4:30pm. Sponsor: Carnegie. Speakers: William J. Burns, Chandrajit Banerjee, Arun Singh, Nisha Biswal, R. Nicholas Burns, Shyam Saran, Ronen Sen, Philip Zelikow, Stephen Biegun, Sumit Mazumder, Rajiv Modi, Deep Kapuria, Kaushik Basu, Edward Luce, Stephen Hadley, M.K. Narayanan, Shivshankar Menon, Thomas Donilon, Robert Scher, Eliot Cohen, Vikram Singh, David Sanger.

US-CHINA COOPERATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST. 7/13, 10:00-11:30am. Sponsor: Center for American Progress (CAP). Speakers: Yang Jiemian, Chairman of Academic Affairs, Shanghai Institute for International Studies; Wu Chunsi, Deputy Director for Department of American Studies, Shanghai Institute for International Studies; Alan Wong, Executive Director of the China-US Exchange Foundation; Vikram Singh, Vice President for National Security and International Policy, CAP; Rudy deLeon and Brian Katulis, CAP Senior Fellows. 

WHY HUMAN RIGHTS MATTER IN POLICY TOWARD NORTH KOREA. 7/13, Noon-2:00pm, Lunch. Sponsors: International Forum for Democratic Studies, National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Speakers: Yoshihiro Makino, Visiting Fellow, International Forum for Democratic Studies, Senior International Correspondent, Asahi Shimbun; Bruce Klingner, Heritage Foundation.

HOW TO AVOID A FROZEN CONFLICT: TRANSATLANTIC APPROACHES TO THE UKRAINE AND RUSSIA. 7/13, 12:30pm. Sponsor: The Friedrich Ebert Foundation. Speakers: Niels Annen, member of the German Parliament; Matthew Rojansky, Director of the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute; John Hudson, Senior Reporter at Foreign Policy. 

DEFENSE POLICY PRIORITIES IN AN AGE OF RAPID CHANGE. 7/13, 1:30-2:30pm. Sponsor: CSIS, International Security Program. Speaker: Christine E. Wormuth, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE ARCTIC. 7/13, 3:00pm, Washington, DC. Sponsors: State Department and the Polar Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences. Speakers: Karen Florini, State Department Deputy Special Envoy for Climate Change; Stephanie Pfirman, Co-chair of the Department of Environmental Science, Columbia University. 

WOMEN IN COMBAT: LESSONS LEARNED FROM CULTURAL SUPPORT TEAMS. 7/13, 3:30-5:00pm. Sponsor: Women in International Security (WIIS). Speakers: Former Members, U.S. Department of Defense’s cultural support teams (CSTs).

Abe's apologies: a boneless corpse

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The politics and pitfalls of war memory and apology

BY Jeff Kingston, director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan
THE JAPAN TIMES, July 11, 2015

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s handling of history issues during this 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II defeat came under critical scrutiny at the recent Japanese Studies Association of Australia conference hosted by La Trobe University in Melbourne.

Arthur Stockwin, the University of Oxford’s eminent political scientist on Japanese politics, assessed the arc of apology from 1995 to 2015, highlighting the counterproductive backsliding that has occurred during Abe’s tenure.

Although there has been no shortage of Japanese apologies for wartime misdeeds, an unwarranted apology fatigue has taken hold. Unwarranted because, as Stockwin argues, every official apology has been undermined by countervailing comments aimed at repudiating or dismissing the contrition expressed. This undermines any potential goodwill because Japan looks like it is wriggling out of its war responsibility and downplaying the horrors that it inflicted on Asia.

Stockwin also believes that Abe has been duplicitous in his “handling of war apology issues that combines apparent agreement with official apologies made in the past, while at the same time by various means throwing doubt on their veracity.”

Abe’s misgivings about the Murayama statement are well-known so when he says that he accepts it in general he underscores that in certain specifics he doesn’t. Stockwin related that in February 2009 Abe gave an interview in the journal Will, saying, “It is a big mistake to teach the Murayama statement as historical understanding.”

That same month, in the right-wing journal Seiron, Abe commented: “Japan is not bound forever by the personal historical understanding of Mr. Murayama. The Murayama statement was too one-sided, and I should like to come up with something more balanced.”

In April, Abe said there was no point in repeating the Murayama and Koizumi war apologies, saying he inherited them and wants to leave it at that. Shinichi Kitaoka, a well-known academic who is one of Abe’s foremost advisers and apologists, maintains that Abe can inherit past statements without repeating them.

“It is natural that what is said 50 years after the war and what is said 70 years after the war should differ to some extent,” Kitaoka says. Stockwin’s rejoinder is withering: “Kitaoka’s analysis sounds confused, and appears to imply that it is acceptable to repeat earlier war apologies so long as their content is removed. It is surprisingly difficult to see that this could carry serious intellectual conviction.”

Stockwin senses a strategy, saying that Abe pays lip service to war apologies that have stood the test of time and served Japan well while at the same time slagging them. Instead of outright repudiation of the 1993 Kono statement on “comfort women,” Abe has gutted it, something Stockwin refers to as honenuki ni suru (taking the bones out, while leaving the outward shape).

In Stockwin’s view, Abe’s maneuvering on war apology has been counterproductive and worsened relations with China and South Korea, thereby irking the United States.

Akiko Hashimoto, a professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, recently published an excellent book titled, The Long Defeat: Cultural Trauma, Memory, and Identity in Japan, which explores the contentious politics of divisive war memories. She draws our gaze to intertwined narratives of nationalism, pacifism and reconciliation, and the long shadow of defeat that animates the politics of national identity. She calls on Japan to relinquish the “comfort zone of ambiguity in the amorphous middle ground between guilt and innocence in WWII” and to embrace “imaginative concessions and innovative compromise to break the logjam of historical grievances.” Forgetting, denying or downplaying, she says, is no longer an option in a “globalizing culture of memory.”

“Japan’s moral recovery cannot be complete without constructing a new collective self, and a political identity that extends beyond the alliance with the U.S.,” she argues.

Hashimoto points out that apology is “an ennobling act” and Abe can do much to enhance Japan’s dignity and moral stature if he takes the measure of Japan’s wartime history. A forthright apology is a “pathway to transcend stigma,” but Japanese revisionists lack the courage to admit wartime “evildoing” and therefore close off possibilities of rapprochement and achieving a shared sense of justice with its victims. Nationalism in East Asia has turned “war memory into a contest of national interests and identity, and a stew of national resentments” that fuel mistrust and suspicion. It is up to Japan to show the way forward, but Abe’s vision is focused on the past in ways that jeopardize the future.

Hashimoto notes that Abe is unlikely to repeat Murayama’s condemnation of Japanese colonial and wartime aggression as a “mistaken national policy” because it would mean condemning the wartime record of his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi and, thereby, dishonoring his family. Kishi was indicted as a Class-A war criminal by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East due to his role in mobilizing labor in Manchuria and as wartime munitions minister for Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

Hashimoto also believes Abe’s efforts to expand Japan’s security role are misguided and ignore public sentiments that draw on grass-roots wartime memories. Expecting that the forthcoming Abe statement will shirk the burdens of history, Hashimoto wants to remind Japan’s victims, and the world, that most Japanese don’t support his exonerating and valorizing narrative of Japan’s wartime record.

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Akiko Takenaka, a professor of history at the University of Kentucky, her astute insights on historical controversies in her new book, Yasukuni Shrine: History, Memory, and Japan’s Unending Postwar. She focuses on Yasukuni Shrine’s role in terms of national identity and war memory and the dilemma of how to remember those who died in Japan’s attempt to subjugate Asia.

“(Abe’s) record on historical issues in 2015 has been dismal,” Takenaka says. “I believe he’s managed to reach a new low as far as Japanese prime ministers’ records on the issues.”

In his much-anticipated statement on Aug. 15, she says Abe “should most certainly declare support of the Kono statement, apologize for the violence inflicted on others, and also acknowledge the wrongs of the past.”

She adds that acknowledging past wrongdoings is just the first step in reconciliation.

“But mere acknowledgment won’t change the past. Nor will it speak to the growing number of Japanese who embrace the revisionist myths,” she says.

To address this trend, Takenaka calls for the inclusion of peace education in the school curriculum, but Team Abe is busy white-washing textbooks and promoting patriotic education.

As perpetrator’s fatigue gains momentum among Japanese amid a heightened sense of victimization, she wonders, “Who is going to take action to improve Japan’s strained relations with China and South Korea, which are deeply rooted in the wartime past?”

None of these experts thinks Abe is the man for the job.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Monday in Washington, July 6, 2015

STATE OF U.S. PATENT REFORM. 7/6, 1:00-2:30pm. Sponsor: CSIS, Strategic TechnologiesProgram. Speakers: Michelle K. Lee, Under Secretary, Commerce for Intellectual Property, Director, United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO); Victoria A. Espinel, President and CEO, BSA, Software Alliance; Michael A. Waring, Executive Director, Federal Relations, University of Michigan.

REFORMING THE MANAGEMENT OF INDONESIA’S ENERGY AND MINERAL RESOURCES SECTOR: AN UPDATE. 7/6, 2:30-4:00pm. Sponsor: The United States-Indonesia Society (USINDO). Speaker: H.E. Sudirman Said, Indonesia’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources. 

COMBATING ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION AND POVERTY IN WESTERN CHINA. 7/6, 3:00-4:30pm. Sponsor: Woodrow Wilson Center (WWC). Speakers: Jin Jiaman, Executive Director of the Global Environment Institute; Boahua Zheng, Director or Rural Development Institute; Ling Du, Director of the Chengdu Shuguang Community Capacity-Building Center. 

PUTTING AMERICA BACK ON THE FAST TRACK: TRADE PROMOTION AUTHORITY PASSES THE HOUSE AND SENATE. 7/6, 4:00-5:00pm. Sponsor: Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT). Speakers: Eva Hampl, Director of Investment Trade and Financial Services, United States Council for International Business; Adeline Hinderer Sayers, Trade Counselor and Deputy Head of Section, Delegation of the European Union to the US.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

UNESCO and Japan’s Act of Forgetting

Baron Mitsui hosting a dinner for senior POW officers from Fukuoka #17,
the Miike Omuta Mine, after the war
Designation of Japan’s Meiji-era sites overlooks some important history.

By Mindy Kotler, APP Director
The Diplomat, July 3, 2015

For more on the American POW experience with Imperial Japan see the APP blog American POWs of Japan

This is Karel Aster’s year. In April, the Czech Republic granted the 95-year-old Florida resident the nation’s highest honor, the Gratias Agit, for his valor and bravery during World War II. Aster had volunteered to fight with the Americans in 1941 to defend the Philippines against the Japanese invasion. He survived the battle, the Bataan Death March*, a hell ship to Japan, and years as a slave laborer at a Mitsui coal mine at Omuta, Kyushu Island.

Also at the Mitsui site were American Lester Tenney and Australian Tom Uren. Tenney, another survivor of the Bataan Death March, persuaded the Japanese government in 2009 to apologize to the American POWs of Japan. Uren, who died last January, was a leading Labor Party politician who secured supplementary payment to Australia’s 900 surviving prisoners from World War II and the Korean War.

Account by a Scottish POW
of Mitsui's Miike coal mine
click to order
This coming weekend, UNESCO will designate the Mitsui Miike coal mine as a World Heritage site of Japan’s early modernization. The Japanese nomination, however, makes no mention of the history of any WWII POWs or of the thousands of Asian slave laborers at this site.

UNESCO is expected to approve 23 similar Japanese-nominated sites. Absent will be any accounting of the dark histories associated with these mines, foundries, and shipyards. Silence about the full history of these would-be global landmarks undermines UNESCO’s international goals and the U.S.-Japan alliance.

Lester Tenney's account of
being a  POW at
Mitsui's Miike coal mine
Currently there are 1,007 sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. They are to serve as “instruments of international understanding and international cooperation.” The World Heritage accolade brings prestige and international attention to unique cultural accomplishments.

World Heritage sites often become tourist attractions and many nations view the designation as a path to reviving fading regions and cities. That is one motive behind Japan’s nomination of its sites. But the selective telling of their history is part of the Abe administration’s broader policy of restoring Japanese pride in their past.

Dr. Thomas Hewlett
Mitsui Omuta POW
Camp doctor
click to read
his account of conditions
The regions of Japan’s UNESCO nominations are in search of tourist dollars as they are among the hardest hit by the country’s economic downturn. Tourism is a growth industry in Japan with visitors from China nearly doubling and Korea not far behind. Many of the nominated sites are also located in the home districts of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Taro Aso, and Agriculture Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi.

The family companies of Aso and Hayashi, The Aso Group and Ube Industries respectively, used Allied POW slave labor at company sites included among the nominations. Of the eight industrial areas nominated, five held 26 POW camps with nearly 13,000 Allied POWs providing slave labor to Japan’s industrial giants, including Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Sumitomo, Aso Group, Ube Industries, Tokai Carbon, Nippon Coke & Engineering, Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, Furukawa Company Group, and Denka. The POWs came from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, New Zealand, Norway, Jamaica, Portugal, South Africa, Malaya, Arabia, and Czechoslovakia.

In addition, the nominated ports at Kitakyushu, then called Moji, and Nagasaki, were the entry points for nearly 35,000 Allied POWs, of which approximately 11,000 were American. Over 7,000 American and Allied POWs died traveling to Japan aboard the aptly called “hell ships,” and 3,500 more perished in Japan, 25 percent within the first 30 days of arrival.

Slave labor in Japan did not begin with World War II. Forced and conscripted labor was a critical part of the mining and manufacturing industries in nineteenth-century Meiji Japan. From late Meiji (1868-1912) onward, Japan used “industrial prisons” to supply labor to factories and mills at private companies. Up until the 1930s, the majority of the miners were convicts with the rest being peasants made landless by Meiji land reforms and “outcastes.” One-third were women. Cheap Chinese and Korean labor became important in Japan’s mines and factories, and on the docks.

Tokyo’s World Heritage nominations fail to address the full historical significance of these sites. Japan’s industrialization included Japanese and foreigners, nobles and outcasts, POW slaves and conscripted Koreans, as well as women and children. Without taking these into account, the story Japan wants to tell fails to meet UNESCO criteria of “universal value and meaning.”

Japan and UNESCO should look to the perhaps surprisingly positive experience of other World Heritage sites that do acknowledge their darker histories. The Liverpool-Maritime Merchant City site is a striking case in point. The Liverpool port served a key role in the triangular transatlantic slave trade of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Liverpool has acknowledged its substantial role in a deplorable (and what would today be a criminal) business. Liverpool opened in 2007 the International Slavery Museum on the dock and, in 2006, a Centre for the Study of International Slavery at the University of Liverpool. Identical memorials to the victims of slavery stand on the docks of Liverpool, Richmond, Virginia, and Cotonou, Benin, linking this shared memory among them. These resources have drawn scholars and others and have in fact bolstered Liverpool’s reputation has a place where history – both good and bad – can be studied and understood.

Of the 21 nations represented on today’s UNESCO World Heritage committee, nationals from six were World War II POWs held on mainland Japan. These are: India, Malaysia, Jamaica, Finland, Poland, and Portugal. A seventh, South Korea, had hundreds of thousands of its men and women conscripted to work in near slavery conditions.

The U.S. does not have a vote in UNESCO. But Washington can speak to its Japanese ally to remind them of the debt they owe American veterans for defending their freedom.

On the morning of August 9, 1945, all the POWs in Omuta saw the red cloud rise from Nagasaki across the bay. Although a very modern weapon ended their ordeal at the Miike mine, they had experienced labor in Japan that had changed little since Meiji times. They would not want such forced labor to be repeated and certainly none would want it forgotten.

As it stands, Japan’s nomination of Meiji industrial sites is an act of forgetting. It omits the full history of Japan’s industrialization. For UNESCO to accept this is a disservice to its charter and to the memory of the thousands that slaved for Imperial Japan.

*Correction: Mr. Aster avoided the Bataan Death March by escaping to Corregidor. He was forced to participate in a "Victory March" of POWs six miles down Manila's Dewey Boulevard to Bilibid Prison. The Corregidor POWs stayed there until they were packed on freight trains for the 90-mile trip to Cabanatuan Prison Camp. Mr. Aster was a POW in the Philippines until October 1944 and did not arrive in Japan until March 1945. Thus, he was less than six months at the Miike Coal mine,  unlike Dr. Tenney who was there nearly three years. Czech government biographies, from which this article drew, are incorrect.

Grammatical corrections made July 7, 2015.

Unesco and the story of Japan's Meiji Era

Front Gate Fukuoka #2 POW Camp - Mitsubishi Shipyards Nagasaki

If badly handled, the World Heritage listing could serve to recouple the impressive Meiji industrial revolution to the slumbering concept of Japan as the glorious "light of Asia".

Independent scholar and APP member who completed his PhD at Kyushu University on reparations movements for forced labour in wartime Japan.

THE STRAITS TIMES, June 29, 2015

THE Unesco World Heritage Committee yesterday began considering this year's nominations to the World Heritage List. The 10-day session is normally quiet, and acceptance of the proposals - already vetted by an advisory body called the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos) - is considered routine.

The 500-page Icomos advisory report provides a flavour of the 40-plus nominations slated for approval: rock art sites in Saudi Arabia and Uganda, Viking sites in northern Europe, a bridge in Britain, Spanish missions in the United States, an aqueduct in Mexico, a monastery in Georgia and the Singapore Botanic Gardens.

Then there is Japan's ambitious - even audacious - Unesco bid.

"Sites of Japan's Meiji Industrial Revolution" seek World Heritage status for two dozen mines, factories, ports and shipyards located mainly in the nation's south-west. The Icomos report released last month notes the properties represent the "first successful transfer of industrialisation from the West to a non-Western nation".

The governments of South Korea and China, however, have expressed opposition to the listing, and vigorous lobbying campaigns on both sides of the issue have injected international politics into the upcoming discussion about cultural landmarks.

Critics of the Japanese package view Meiji Era (1868-1912) nation-building as inseparable from 20th-century empire-building, which led inexorably to Japanese colonialism and the Asia-Pacific War. History is never easy in North-east Asia.

Resistance to Japan's plan stems from the fact that some 700,000 Koreans, 40,000 Chinese and 35,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) performed forced labour for private industry in wartime Japan.

But there have been almost no corporate acknowledgments, no apologies and no compensation to individual victims.

Fully one-third of Japan's would-be Unesco sites can be directly connected to forced labour, and groups representing US and British former POWs are also sceptical about Tokyo's application.

These nominated venues include port facilities at Moji in Fukuoka prefecture, through which tens of thousands of workers bound for the Kyushu coal mines involuntarily passed. Their toil produced profits for companies like Mitsui and Mitsubishi, the zaibatsu twin pillars of wartime production that owned - or still own - several of the properties slated for Unesco's imprimatur. In fact, Mitsubishi has operated the Nagasaki shipbuilding yard - where hundreds of forced labourers perished in the American atomic bombing that ended the war - for the past 128 years.

Yawata (or Yahata) Steel Works, originally known as Imperial Steel Works, was built by the central government using hefty indemnity payments extracted from China following the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895. The mills were later taken over by Nippon Steel, which ran the enterprise using forced labourers during the war and runs it today as Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. The inclusion in a World Heritage application of working sites belonging to private firms is considered atypical.

Japan's initiative to showcase the remarkable industrial achievements of the Meiji Era represents a focused, sustained public-relations effort. Its stated theme being "From a small Asian nation to world economic power", the Kagoshima-based official website for the global push (with an English version at www. recounts the rise of modern Japan beginning with the Opium Wars, which presaged a regional geopolitical upheaval that rightly alarmed the foundering Tokugawa shogunate.

"Emergence of Industrial Japan: Kyushu-Yamaguchi" is a 20-page summary of the original Unesco proposal prepared by Japan in 2009. Japan at the dawn of the Meiji Restoration, according to the promotional piece, "chose rapid industrialisation as a strategy to preserve national independence, free from foreign political and economic subordination. Japan was determined to join the modern world economy on its terms rather than those of a colonial power. It was to become the master of change rather than its victim".

The World Heritage submission bookends the histories of the proposed sites at 1850 and 1910, with the latter year marking (perhaps coincidentally) the start of Japan's formal annexation of Korea. Since the Meiji emperor reigned until 1912, this bracketing may seek to sidestep the contentious history of colonialism on the Korean peninsula, which set the stage for the annexation of Manchuria in 1931 and eventually for total war with China and the West.

To some observers, the nature of Japan's unusual "serial nomination" of 23 sites spread across eight prefectures, intended to highlight 60 years of relatively recent national emergence, suggests an ulterior motive. So does the pending listing of Shokasonjuku Academy in Yamaguchi prefecture. This property, according to the Icomos report, was "one of the bases of the respected royalist teacher, Shoin Yoshida, who aspired to progressive ideas based on Western education, science and industry but with respect to Japanese traditions".

Yoshida himself was executed for his revolutionary activities by the Tokugawa regime in 1859, but he provided the philosophical compass for the core of young samurai leaders who engineered the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Later, however, ideas first expounded at Shokasonjuku Academy morphed into a wellspring of motivation and justification for Japanese militarism and expansion on the Asian mainland - and beyond. Yoshida and his followers were held up as a dynamic contrast to the "backwardness" of other Asians who had not successfully responded to the challenge of Western domination.

There may be a mismatch between the Icomos finding that Japan's package meets the Unesco requirement for "outstanding universal value" and the portrayal in Japan's own pitch of a "unique and exceptional affirmation of the cutting-edge, living, industrial cultural tradition of this small Asian nation".

Similarly, the Japanese website's headline for the boosterish section on Imperial Steel Works reads: "Mighty national enterprise remains testimony to dauntless Meiji spirit."

Unesco is set to confirm the Meiji industrial sites at a moment when historical revisionism related to the Asia-Pacific War is increasing under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has challenged interpretations of Japan's imperialism, colonialism and prosecution of the war that have been accepted as mainstream since 1945.

The World Heritage application was originally submitted during the premiership of Mr Taro Aso, the current Cabinet member who wrote a 2007 book called Japan The Tremendous. In the book, Mr Aso contends Japan is a "fount of moral lessons" for Asia.

The Icomos advisory report, while urging approval of the Japanese bid, also calls on Japan to prepare an interpretive strategy that "allows an understanding of the full history of each site".

By holistically depicting the forced labour-linked sites and adopting best practices for inclusive historical narration, Tokyo's Unesco project could potentially become a model for transnational exchange, understanding and reconciliation.

If badly handled, the World Heritage listing could serve to recouple the impressive Meiji industrial revolution to the slumbering concept of Japan as the glorious "light of Asia". The story of modern Japan might then degenerate into a nationalistic narrative about Imperial Japan's overseas aims and actions. That's the last thing the region needs now.