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Saturday, March 17, 2007

COLD COMFORT

State mum on Nakasone's war brothel


Staff writer

The government refused Friday to comment on former Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone's memoirs of his service as a naval officer during the war in which he reveals he set up a military brothel.

"Comfort women" is Japan's euphemism for the women forced to provide sex for the Japanese military during the war in the 1930s and '40s.

In a question paper submitted to the government, House of Representatives member Kiyomi Tsujimoto of the Social Democratic Party asked if the government interviewed Nakasone during its 1991-1993 investigation into the comfort women issue, and, if it did not, does it plan to do so.

In the written reply released Friday, the government said it "was aware of" Nakasone's experience but did not answer Tsujimoto's questions, saying it would not reveal information about any interviews it conducted for the investigation, in part because it would "identify specific persons."

The paper also confirmed an earlier claim by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on the "comfort women" as its official government view. Abe claimed there is no documentary evidence showing that the military directly coerced young women into sexual servitude.

"Some (soldiers) started assaulting (indigenous) women and others started to indulge in gambling. I took great pains to set up a comfort station for them," Nakasone recalled in "Owarinaki Kaigun" ("The Navy Without End"), a collection of memoirs written by navy veterans, published in 1978. "Comfort station" was the government's term for frontline brothel.

Yoshiaki Yoshimi, a professor at Chuo University and a leading expert on the forced sex, said Nakasone's experience was evidence that the military was directly involved in setting up and running the brothels.

According to Tsujimoto, the section in which Nakasone describes setting up the brothel was submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year as evidence that the Japanese military was directly involved in managing the "comfort stations."

Abe has alleged no documented evidence has been discovered to prove the government was directly involved in "forcibly taking women" to the military brothels and forcing them to work there.

Abe's remark drew a storm of criticism from across Asia. He has repeated that his government stands by the 1993 official apology for the forcing of women into frontline brothels.

In 1993, then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono publicly stated that an investigation by the government confirmed that Japan did in fact force women into the brothels.

Nobuo Ishihara, who was deputy chief Cabinet secretary in 1993, has said the statement was largely based on interviews with 16 former comfort women, not government documents.

Nakasone was prime minister from 1982 to 1987.


For more stories related to the wartime sex slaves issue.



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