Statement of the Honorable Eni F.H. Faleomavaega
A resolution calling on the Government of Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize, and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its Imperial Armed Force's coercion of young women and girls into sexual slavery during World War II.
Mr. Chairman: First and foremost, I want to thank and commend you and our Senior Ranking Member, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen, for your leadership and efforts and, especially, for your support to bring this proposed legislation in the form of a substitute for markup this morning before our Committee. I also want to thank our colleague, the gentleman from California, Mr. Honda, for his sponsorship of this bill which has the bipartisan support of some 146 Members of the House of Representatives. I also want to make note that this resolution was previously passed by this committee in the last Congress, under the able leadership of our previous Chairman, the gentleman from Illinois, Mr. Henry Hyde. I would be remiss if I did not also mention the name of our former colleague and friend, Mr. Lane Evans also from Illinois, who championed this bill for the past several years.
Mr. Chairman, our Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific and the Global Environment conducted a hearing in February of this year concerning the proposed bill, and, for the first time ever in the history of the US Congress, three women who were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army, testified for the record. Ms. Yong Soo Lee and Ms. Koon Ja Kim from Korea, and Ms. Jan Ruff O'Herne now from Australia, were among some 200,000 women from Korea, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries in the Pacific who were forced into prostitution and were severely abused, tortured and even killed by Japanese soldiers before and during the second World War.
Mr. Chairman, there was a lot of discussion during our hearing about the number of apologies made by some of the leaders and prime ministers of Japan, concerning the practice of setting up sexual slave camps during Japanese occupation of several countries throughout Asia before and during World War II. It should be noted, however, that not one Prime Minister has ever made an unequivocal apology on behalf of the Government of Japan, and not even with the support or endorsement of cabinet as a necessary matter of record and operation of a parliamentary system of government.
As Mr. Honda eloquently stated in his testimony before our subcommittee, this resolution is simply to call upon "the Government of Japan to formally acknowledge, apologize and accept historical responsibility in a clear and unequivocal manner for its (Japan) Imperial Armed Forces' coercion of young women and girls into sexual slavery during World War II."
In 1993, after a two-year study by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the supervision of the Chief Secretary of Cabinet, an equivalent to the Chief-of-Staff of the White House, Mr. Yahei Kono stated:
".........The Government of Japan has been conducting a study on the issue of wartime "comfort women" since December 1991...... The Government study has revealed that in many cases they were recruited against their own will, through coaxing coercion, etc., and that, at times, administrative/military personnel directly took part in the recruitments. They lived in misery at comfort stations under a coercive atmosphere........ their recruitment, transfer, control, etc., were conducted generally against their will, through coaxing, coercion, etc. ....... "
"Undeniably, this was an act, with the involvement of the military authorities ........"
While substantive, and I commend Mr. Kono for his findings, a Chief Cabinet Secretary of Japan simply does not speak on behalf of the Government of Japan. In recent months, Prime Minister Abe first denied the existence of such sexual slave camps because of the pressure from the conservative members of his party. Then, he retracted his position because of pressure from leaders of the Asia-Pacific region. Recently, Prime Minister Abe now referred to the issue by stating that he "respects" the finding of the Kono Report of 1993. What does this mean?
Mr. Chairman, I bear no animosity or ill-will towards the people of Japan and I must emphasize that our economic, strategic, and military alliance with Japan could not be better. However, I make this appeal to the leaders of Japan to resolve this issue and move on. There can be no reconciliation without proper acknowledgement. The recognition of this dark chapter of Japan's history of the atrocities and sexual slavery operations authorized and implemented by the Japanese Imperial Army before and during World War II, cannot be denied.
Mr. Chairman, I urge my colleagues to support this resolution.