Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Japan's Re-Militarization: Obama to Make Comfort Women of Us All

At work I have a little cubicle. I wish I were there more often. The way my position has developed I backup or assist, or so it seems, just about everyone in an office of approximately 20 people. So I am constantly, depending on who is out sick or on vacation -- really, even if everyone shows up to work -- bouncing from one desk to another. It is stressful. Arriving at someone else's desk you have to determine where everything is and then what work needs to be expedited; you have to be familiar with another person's process.

At this job, and at the job, where I worked as a dispatcher, at the union local prior to this one, I likened myself to a "comfort woman." The union members would come in to "fire off their guns" and I would absorb the salvos.

So I always felt some sort of solidarity with the old Korean women trying to hold Japan accountable for its Imperial past. During World War Two Japan established a brothel system of sexual slavery in territory it had conquered. As Japan, under prime minister Shinzo Abe, moves to shed itself of its pacifist constitution, Abe has been reluctant to express contrition to the comfort women.

This week Abe has come to the United States on a state visit, the first by a Japanese leader in nine years, in order to confer with the White House on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and the re-militarization of Japanese society as part of Obama's "pivot to Asia."

Last night there was a state dinner. Some organizations had been demanding that Abe acknowledge the comfort women and apologize to them. According to the account in this morning's paper by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, "No Deal, but Progress on Trans-Pacific Trade, Obama and Shinzo Abe Say After Meeting," Abe sidestepped the issue:
If Mr. Abe’s visit carried powerful historic significance and the promise of closer ties with the United States, it was also plagued by longstanding controversy. Korean-Americans and several members of Congress pressed him to use the occasion to make an official apology for the use of so-called comfort women in wartime military brothels. 
Mr. Abe did not offer one.
“I am deeply pained to think about the comfort women who experienced immeasurable pain and suffering as a result of victimization due to human trafficking,” Mr. Abe said in response to a question about whether he would apologize. “This is a feeling that I share equally with my predecessors.” 
He said he stood behind previous government apologies for the issue, and noted that Japan had provided $12 million last year for international efforts to eliminate sexual violence during conflicts and would provide $22 million more this year. 
That fell far short of the personal apology activists have sought. 
In a statement, Korean American Civic Empowerment, a nonprofit group, called Mr. Abe’s words “gravely offensive to the victims of the Japanese comfort women system.” 
The group called the previous apologies to which Mr. Abe referred “not clear” and “not acceptable to the victims,” and said it was enraged by the prime minister’s mention of how much money he has devoted to the issue. 
“The comfort women survivors are only asking sincere acknowledgment and apology, not money,” the statement said.
What is important to note, and what is not part of the reporting in the mainstream press about Abe's scrapping Japan's pacifism, is that it is being done at the behest of the United States. How else to interpret Monday's story by Hirschfeld Davis and Michael Gordon, "Japan and U.S. Set New Rules for Military Cooperation"?
On the eve of a formal state visit by Mr. Abe to the White House, American and Japanese officials announced an agreement on Monday that would expand the reach of Japan’s military — now limited to its own defense — allowing it to act when the United States or countries American forces are defending are threatened. 
The agreement reflects worries about North Korea and, especially, China, whose territorial claims in the South China Sea and growing military spending have upset its neighbors. 
“With China’s growing assertiveness and North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, Japan, like a lot of allies, wants to be there for us so we’ll be there for them,” said Michael J. Green, the senior vice president for Asia and Japan Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It allows the U.S. military to plan Japan in, so that when we turn to them and say, ‘Can you deal with our left flank?,’ the Japanese, in principle, now can do that.”
The military agreement announced on Monday replaces guidelines geared exclusively toward the defense of Japan with new rules that eliminate any geographic restriction
Now Japanese forces also could aid American ships involved in missile-defense activities in the region, or Japan could intercept a missile heading for the United States. “That is a very big change from being locally focused to being globally focused,” Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said at a joint news conference in New York with Secretary of State John Kerry and their Japanese counterparts. 
Sheila A. Smith, a senior fellow for Japan studies at the Council on Foreign Relations called the deal a “very significant transformation” between the United States and Japan. “It’s about deterrence and de-escalation, to guard against the risk that something small could quickly become a major armed conflict.”
As Ukraine readies itself for another failed offensive against Novorossiya, it is important to remember that the New Cold War encompasses not just Russia by the Chinese Dragon as well. Just as the U.S. is fanning the flames of neo-Nazism in Ukraine, it is relaunching Japanese militarism -- all under the watch of the Nobel Peace Prize winning POTUS. Surely, for those of us who thought for a moment that Obama might actually be a candidate of "Hope and Change," he has made comfort women of us all.

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