I am writing regarding the articles, “PH comfort women: statues removed but pain remains, stories retold” (2/24/19) and “Descendants help retell ordeal of comfort women” (2/25/19), which missed important facts about Japan’s long-standing position and its efforts in addressing the issue of comfort women.
Firstly, Japan has squarely faced history since the end of World War II. The government of Japan recognizes that the comfort women issue was a grave affront to the honor and dignity of a large number of women.
The government has expressed its sincere apologies and deep remorse through the release of the “Statement by the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono on the result of the study on the issue of ‘comfort women’” on Aug. 4, 1993, and the delivery of letters from successive prime ministers to former comfort women.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated on Aug. 14, 2015, in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II: “We will engrave in our hearts the past, when the dignity and honor of many women were severely injured during wars in the 20th century. Upon this reflection, Japan wishes to be a country always at the side of such women’s hearts. Japan will lead the world in making the 21st century an era in which women’s human rights are not infringed upon.”
Secondly, Japan has sincerely addressed the issue of comfort women on humanitarian grounds, despite the fact that it has been legally settled.
Issues of reparations, properties and claims, including those by individuals, arising from the war have been legally settled among countries concerned, including the Philippines, by the San Francisco Peace Treaty as well as bilateral treaties, agreements and instruments.
Specifically, Article 14(b) of the San Francisco Peace Treaty stipulates that “the Allied Powers waive all reparations claims of the Allied Powers, other claims of the Allied Powers and their nationals arising out of any actions taken by Japan and its nationals in the course of the prosecution of the war.” In the context of this treaty, Japan and the Philippines entered into a bilateral reparations agreement in 1956, under which Japan paid the Philippines a total of 198 billion yen.
Although there was no doubt the issue had been legally settled, the government and the people of Japan cooperated on humanitarian grounds and together established the Asian Women’s Fund (AWF) in 1995. The government of Japan provided a total of 4.8 billion yen to the AWF and the people of Japan donated approximately 600 million yen.
Japan delivered atonement money from its people, along with letters of apology from prime ministers, to former comfort women in Asian nations, including the Philippines. Japan and the Philippines coordinated closely in identifying former comfort women, as well as determining and implementing AWF projects for them. As a result, 211 former comfort women received the atonement money (2 million yen per person) as well as medical and welfare support (1.2 million yen per person).
With deep repentance of the war that ended 74 years ago, Japan has created a free and democratic country, and consistently upheld the pledge never to wage a war again. As a peace-loving nation, Japan has consistently devoted itself to the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world. We remain determined never to deviate from this steadfast course.
ATSUSHI KUWABARA, minister for public relations, Embassy of Japan in the Philippines