Tokyo must offer a similar accord

By Joe Hung

Japan and South Korea solved their Korean “comfort women” dispute last week with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe offering an apology for the victims and pledging US$8.3 million to create a foundation to help provide support for them. The pledge isn’t considered governmental compensation that the Koreans had demanded. Moreover, the deal was made orally and there isn’t a written accord. The Tokyo-Seoul accord kicked off a political spat in Taiwan, where eligible voters will go to the polls in less than two weeks to elect their president and a new Legislative Yuan.

As soon as the news had broken, the Kuomintang (KMT) administration was blamed for not knowing about the deal Abe was making with Korean President Park Geun-hye in secret, as well as failing to initiate negotiations for a similar accord in the past seven years, after the Legislature had adopted a binding resolution for the government to do so. The vernacular press, totally ignorant of the complicated relations between Japan and South Korea, blindly criticized the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the “serious faux pas.” South Korea weighs many times more in diplomatic importance to Japan than the Republic of China on Taiwan, which Tokyo derecognized in 1972. Tokyo buckled and succumbed to pressure from South Korea as well as the United States — which wants a patching-up between the two neighbor countries — to concede the oral accord in the interest of containing the People’s Republic of China. Taiwan has no such leverage. It’s totally up to Tokyo to start negotiating an identical accord with Taiwan. A very small pro-China party, the Chinese Unification Promotion Party, staged an anti-Japan demonstration in front of the Taipei Office of Japan’s Interchange Association last Thursday to demand Tokyo’s official apology and compensation for the Taiwanese comfort women. Protesters tried to burn a Naval Ensign of the Japanese Imperial Navy but were duly stopped by police. The office is Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei. A score of supporters of the pro-unification New Party demonstrated before the Ministry of Education shouting “Down with the party buttering up Japan” and “Restoring grandmas’ dignity.” Yok Mo-ming, chairman of the party, and its two proportional representation candidates for the presidential and legislative elections on Jan. 16, who marched at the head of the demonstration, demanded that the ministry keep “forced” in the newly revised high school history textbook description of comfort women that was removed in textbooks published while the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power. Yok and his candidates said the DPP was a party of Japanophiles trying to sell flattery to Japan and described those who claim that all comfort women volunteered to offer sex services to officers and men of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy as “inferior to the birds and beasts.”