The Ghosts of Nanking
Part two of a Special Multi-part series about the Forgotten Holocaust of WWII
Shadows of retrobution
By Jesse Horn
Continued Exclusives with Yasuhisa Kawamura, Deputy Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and Dr. Peter Stanek, President of the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WW II in Asia.
In recognition of the 72 anniversary of the horrors that befell the Chinese city of Nanking, beginning in December of 1937, we have been discussing the atrocities and what has come as a result. This has been a dark stain on the history of humanity, and during the course of this six-part series, we have attempted to not only show how long these individuals had to endure these atrocities, but also show the complexities of how to deal with what took place, even today. There are many who look to the Japanese Government as being evasive and unapologetic for what took place, and even in recent years and attempts to move in a direction towards reconciliation there have been those even within the Japanese Government that have countered these attempts. To find a clear understanding as to where the Government of Japan stands on these issues, as well as where global authorities feel, we spoke to Yasuhisa Kawamura, Deputy Press Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, and Dr. Peter Stanek, President of the Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WWII in Asia.
"In legal terms, the Government of Japan has sincerely settled issues of reparations,” explained Mr. Kawamura, “assets, and claims arising out of the War by means of the San Francisco Peace Treaty of 1952, other bilateral peace treaties including the 1972 Japan-China Treaty with the Joint Declaration, and other international instruments. Japan accepted such burdens as payment of reparation and forfeiture of its foreign assets and claims.” According to Article 1 of the Joint Declaration between Japan and the People’s Republic of China in 1972, ‘The anomalous relations between Japan and the People’s Republic of China shall be ended on the day of the issuance of this declaration.’ Then Article 5 states that the ‘Government of Peoples’ Republic of China declares that in the interest of the friendship between the Chinese and the Japanese peoples, it renounces its demand for war reparation from Japan.’
“As you may recognize,” continued Mr. Kawamura, “those claims are legally interpreted to include every claim arising out of the war. Japan settled the war time claims with the relevant governments. Some governments, including China, generously declined to demand reparations from Japan. But Japan responded by making substantial contributions of economic assistance to heighten the standard of living in those countries.”
“The record shows something quite different,” explained Dr. Stanek. “Documents cited by Mr. Kawamura, and his reading of them, neither waived nor extinguished individual rights to claims against Japanese citizens, corporations, or governments. And Japan has never accepted the "burdens" of reparations, but resisted them vigorously through the courts.”
Dr. Stanek explained that, as an example, TPT cannot be used as a legal basis for the abandonment of Chinese victims’ right to a claim. TPT itself was void after the signing of the Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China in 1972.
“So the Joint Communique of 1972, or JC, is now effective. In JC, the Chinese government did not abandon the right to a claim of Chinese citizens on their behalf or of the right of Chinese citizens to a right to a claim themselves. Former slaves of the Nishimtsu Corporation and their bereaved families began suing the Corporation in the 1990s for unpaid wages. Allied POWs who became slaves to corporations in Japan during the war have similarly brought lawsuits in Japan and elsewhere and waged a steady campaign for public opinion. Nishimatsu, and other Japanese corporations pocketed huge profits during the war from the blood and lives of Chinese slaves. These same corporations have steadfastly maintained they owe nothing.”
But with the understanding in JC, the first and second instance rulings by District Courts or High Courts in Tokyo, Fukuoka, Niigata, and Hiroshima in Nishimatsu did not support the Japanese government’s position of "the abandonment of the Chinese victims’ right to a claim." (The only exception was the ruling of the Tokyo High Court on March 18, 2005, which supported for the first time the Japanese government’s position of "abandonment of Chinese victims’ right to claim" in the so-called "comfort women" cases. This verdict itself by the Tokyo High Court violated legal precedent and was a provocative aberration, which led to widespread public protest and demonstrations.)
“In the Chinese view,” continued Dr. Stanek “JC did not give up the Chinese nationals’ individual rights to a claim for compensation from Japan. A speech by the Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in 1995, clearly stated, "The Joint Communique abandoned the right to claim of the state, but the right to claim of the individual has not been abandoned.” Again, please take special notice, that in 1972, when China and Japan restored diplomatic relations, a precondition was that the Japanese government agreed there was only one China. Only under this precondition were diplomatic relations of the two countries restored and JC signed.”
Article 2 of the Joint Communique of 1972 states, "The Government of Japan recognizes the Government of the People’s Republic of China as the only legitimate Government of China."
“Using TPT as an argument in any issue of claim by Chinese citizens, or indeed any individual seeking redress, violates Japan's own position defined in JC.
Mr. Kawamura failed to note that waffling about the slave labor issue and lying about its history ultimately destroyed the government of Taro Aso (scion of the Aso family and their extensive mining operations supported by slave laborer during the war) and of the LDP.”
Mr. Kawamura stated there were actions other than legal that the Government of Japan took.
"In addition to the above-mentioned legal resolutions,” Mr. Kawamura explained, “Japan has also taken humanitarian approaches to particular issues. On the issue of wartime comfort women for example, the Japanese Government expressed its sincere apologies and remorse, and also established the Asian Women’s Fund to help compensate these victims. On the issue of the former US POWs, the Japanese Government recognizes that the so-called Visit Japan initiative would contribute to further understanding and reconciliation between Japan and the United States. By keeping this in mind, the Japanese Government is currently examining how practically this initiative be realized."
“Once again,” Dr. Stanek stated, “Mr. Kawamura is completely wrong.” Dr. Stanek went on to explain that in 2007, Rep. Michael Honda, a Japanese-American representing a district in Northern California, introduced HR 121 that demanded an apology from the Japanese government for the forced sex slavery of Korean, Chinese, Filipino, and Indonesian girls and young women. After much debate, the measure was passed by the US House of Representatives.
“The government of Japan lobbied vigorously against HR 121, in a hopeless attempt to justify sex slavery and stifle debate on human rights. In this way did the Japanese government express remorse?”
The Passage of HR 121 prompted a global motion that was swiftly followed by similar legislation demanding an apology and compensation from the government of Japan: the Canadian Parliament Motion 291 of 2007, the European Parliament Motion of 2007, the Philippine House Resolution 124 of 2007, the South Korean National Assembly Resolution of 2008, the Taiwan National Assembly Resolution of 2008,
and other similar legislation. In 2008, the United Nations Human Rights Commission commented once again stating in its "International covenant on civil and political rights" CPR/C/JPN/CO/5, 30 October 2008, that in regards to Japan,
“The Committee notes with concern that the state party has still not accepted its responsibility for the “comfort women” system during World War II, that perpetrators have not been prosecuted, that the compensation provided to victims is financed by private donations rather than public funds and is insufficient, that few history textbooks contain references to the “comfort women” issue, and that some politicians and mass media continue to defame victims or to deny the events. (arts. 7 and 8)”
It continued stating that "The State party should accept legal responsibility and apologize unreservedly for the “comfort women” system in a way that is acceptable to the majority of victims and restores their dignity, prosecute perpetrators who are still alive, take immediate and effective legislative and administrative measures to adequately compensate all survivors as a matter of right, educate students and the general public about the issue, and to refute and sanction any attempts to defame victims or to deny the events."
“Since the war ended,” Dr. Stanek continued, “the Japanese government continues to ignore or deny efforts by American former POWs to obtain compensation or even a simple apology. Japanese companies have sought to suppress historical documentation of forced POW labor. In 2005, one of Japan’s most prominent magazines, Bungei Shunju, published an article arguing not only that the Bataan Death March was less severe than reported but probably never happened. Remarkably, members of Japan’s Parliament plan to introduce a bill having to do with prisoners of World War II — not to compensate former POWs, but meant to provide back pay and pensions for Korean and other non-Japanese camp guards who had been convicted as war criminals for abusing Allied POWs.”
With there being what appears to be a disconnect with the Japanese Government what can be done now...
“For all the Japanese obfuscation and foot-dragging, for all the cowardly hiding behind obscure references, for all the hesitancy to simply and forthrightly acknowledge the grotesque savagery of the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces during the Pacific War, we have yet to have an clear act of contrition from the Japanese government,” stated Dr. Stanek. “I propose a solution, which I share with you. In 1971, Willy Brandt, Chancellor of West Germany, visited Poland. He went to the Warsaw Ghetto, a symbolic center of the Nazi Holocaust. Brandt sank to his knees and publicly begged the Jewish people for forgiveness. I look forward to the day when Prime Minister Hatoyama and Emperor Akihito visit Nanjing, kneel before the Nanjing Memorial Museum, and loudly beg the Chinese people for forgiveness. Perhaps then we can have peace and reconciliation.” In next weeks part five we turn to examining not only why reconciliation between two different cultures and generations is challenging, but also how it is achievable in our exclusive conversation with renowned psychotherapist Armand Volkas, whose groundbreaking work Healing the Wounds of History has focused on helping groups who share a common legacy of historical trauma traverse the emotional terrain to reconciliation. It is important to note that from the marking of our first part in this series, which also serves as a clock signifying the time frame Nanking was under siege, those who had to live through this horror would be entering their fourth week. At this point thousands have died senseless, cruel, and horrific deaths, and family’s lives would be devastated for generations to come.