Thursday, June 25, 2009

Axis of Weasel

Today, the Japanese Foreign Ministry added more pain and confusion to the Aso Administration by backpedaling on the historic apology its Ambassador to the US gave to the American POWs of Japan barely one month before. Maybe not unexpected, but the sheer public callousness is simply overwhelming.

As you read the press conference below, you will wonder if the Gaimusho bureaucrats understand anything about 21st Century foreign policy. In a terse series of sentences, the Ministry briefer diluted the official nature of the apology carefully delivered by Amb Fujisaki and narrowed his statements to only an issue of Japan-Philippine relations. Somehow the American POWs disappeared. The goodwill generated by this long-sought apology evaporated.

Worse, the spirit of reconciliation and sense of responsibility that the ambassador had worked so hard to foster, imploded at the briefer's podium.

In regard to a possible meeting between PM Aso and a visiting Australian former POW who was a slave laborer in his family's coal mine, the briefer seemed to say that a meeting would be planned with officials from the Foreign Ministry. However, all visitors from the POW delegation featuring Mr. Coombs left Japan this past weekend. And to add insult to injury, the MOFA spokesman implied that the visitors were less than sincere.

But, please read this for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary Yasuhisa Kawamura (pictured)
25 June, 2009

IV. Questions concerning the POW issue

Q: If other people have any questions directly related to today's issue, I have some completely different questions.

Mr. Kawamura: Any questions, please.

Q: I would like to ask about the POW issues. One, about the official apology, so-called, by Ambassador Fujisaki in the US in the end of May; The apology was a so-called official apology from the Japanese Government, but is it projected only for Bataan and Corregidor? Because he came over to the convention and made the apology. Also, how serious is the Japanese government's thinking about their demand which is educating Japanese young people to know what happened about POWs and also the program exchange inviting them, because Americans were excluded. The program covering Dutch, Australian, British POWs, inviting them to Japan and let them visit camps they used to be in. Those are two questions about the Fujisaki apology.

The second question is about very recently a POW from Australia and the son of a POW from Scotland who were made use of in the Aso mines visited. Prime Minister Aso did not meet them, he refused to meet them. What is the real reason he did not meet them?

Mr. Kawamura: Before I forget, let me start with the last question.

Q: OK.

Mr. Kawamura: Those people visited Tokyo and requested a meeting with Prime Minister Aso. The meeting did not take place. You are asking me about the reasons, but I am not the right person to respond directly to that question, why the meeting did not take place.

Q: But the Ministry of Foreign Affairs offered to meet instead.

Mr. Kawamura: Right, exactly, but unfortunately, this proposed meeting did not take place.

I am going to touch upon the basic stance of the Japanese Government regarding the POWs. All the actions and the Japanese treatment of the POWs should be understood in the context of Japan's post-war announcements which clarify its official stance. As you recall, former Prime Minister Murayama expressed very clearly that we had a sense of remorse and apology for the conducts of what Japan did during World War II.

Regarding the government to government relations, we think that the issues related to World War II have been legally settled.

This stance together with the feeling of the Government and the people of Japan has been expressed by our leaders in the past.

The first question about Ambassador Fujisaki's statement should also be seen from the Japanese Government's fundamental stance concerning the World War II and the apology and feeling of remorse that should be applied to the case of Japan-Philippines relations during World War II. I understand Ambassador Fujisaki expressed his feeling in line with the above mentioned official Japan-Philippines relations.

There are two more questions about Ambassador Fujisaki's case, education and Dutch and other countries' invitation programs, I will come back to you. I need to do some research on this.

Q: About the second question, if the Foreign Minister tried to meet them instead of the Prime Minister...

Mr. Kawamura: The Foreign Ministry, not the Foreign Minister, I think.

Q: The Foreign Ministry, yes. How were you planning to explain to them the reason that you did not prepare any explanation why the Prime Minister could not see them or did not want to see them or whatever? Or did you try to repeat what you have just explained?

Mr. Kawamura: Well, it is really hard for me to predict what exactly happened in the conversation particularly with visitors and our officials. But I want to stress that we like to see those people with sincere minds and that we would be prepared to listen carefully to what they would comment on. I think a sincere dialogue should help retain trust.

Q: May I ask which section is planning to meet them? Who is going to meet them?

Mr. Kawamura: I will come back to you because this issue is related to not one but more than two divisions or bureaus.

Q: It would be very nice if I could know who is going to see them.

Mr. Kawamura: Yes, I will come back to you.

Any other questions? Thank you very much.


  1. I apologize in advance for not dealing with POWs however I do have something to do with the MoFA.
    My question is "How do I address the Emperor and Empress of Japan when I meet them in the receiving line of a very soon embassy function?"
    For example, how would "I am pleased to meet you, your royal highness. May I ask you when Japan is going to sign the Hague Convention on the civil aspects of International Child Abduction?" sound?

    Perhaps some of your faithful, if surreptitious, readers might have the answer.

    Thank you!

  2. Anon- how about, "I was a big fan of your dad".

    Madam Chairwoman, your headline was worthy of a British tabloid (that's a good thing) but the mugshot that accompanies it just comes up as a question mark here in Abiko.

  3. The picture is of MOFA Deputy Press Sec Mr. Kawamura.


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