In his "East Asia Anemometer" (an anemometer is a device for measuring wind speed) column for the Sankei Shimbun column of March 29, Takao Harakawa accused foreign correspondents based in Tokyo of harboring "blind belief" in the anti-Japanese propaganda being generated by China and South Korea. He bases this on his observations from a recent press conference that in his view descended into a "blame-Japan" fest.
China, he alleges, has ordered its embassies in various countries to engage in a worldwide campaign to criticize prime minister Abe for visiting Yasukuni Shrine last December. And South Korea recently went so far as to use the venue of an international comic exhibition to lambaste Japan over the sex-slave ("comfort women") issue.
These two neighboring countries' persistent efforts to discredit Japan, suggests Harakawa, may finally be starting to show results, as the press event held in mid-March at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan in Yurakucho, Tokyo, turned into a one-sided affair.
The event was intended to publicize the activities by a delegation of Japanese legislators in local government assemblies who had visited Glendale, California to protest Korean lobbyists' installation of a statue of a comfort woman in a public park.
But when it came time for questions, Harakawa didn't like the tone of the reporters at all.
"During the war, Korean laborers worked in the coal mines in Oita prefecture. Do you think they were sent there forcibly or not?" was one question.
"We're not here today to discuss laborers, this is a press conference about 'sex slaves,'" replied Yoshiko Matsuura, a councilor in the Suginami assembly, in an attempt to deflect his question.
Matsuura pointed out that the 1993 "Kono Statement" apologizing to the sex slaves was based on "completely vague testimony, and also noted that as a result of the controversy there, Japanese children residing in Glendale had been subjected to "bullying and harassment" by Korean children.
"The statue of the 'comfort woman' erected in Glendale will leave a huge bill to be paid in the future," she warned.
The questions fired back by the correspondents in attendance, however, were "conspicuous in the way they were either based on insufficient understanding or bias."
Another correspondent's remarks that "You're saying that the 'sex slaves' are a fabrication, but as opposed to merely making that statement, how many facts are there to support it? Presently Japan is continuing to lose sympathy throughout the world," is given as another example.
Tomoko Tsujimura, a member of the Komae City assembly who also attended the gathering, was quoted as saying "Since the Japanese government is not completely responding [to the allegations], Japan's position is being outweighed by propaganda from South Korea, and I feel the foundations have been laid for many members of the foreign media to harbor feelings of disgust toward Japan."
After the event, Kawahara said a sympathetic foreign journalist said to him, "Today's event was not to ask questions to you, but to cast blame on Japan."
In the background of the journalists' mindset, believes Harakawa, was a viewpoint echoing the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal.
Details from the press event have appeared in the online versions of TIME magazine and Hong Kong's South China Morning Post. Neither of them were inclined to support Matsuura's views. TIME's reporter even wrote that the speakers' efforts to take the offensive over the sex slave issue was "likely to do them more harm than good."
Interpreter at the event was Hiroyuki Fujita, an international journalist and translator of Henry Scott-Stokes' recent book (in Japanese) titled, "Falsehoods of the Allied Nations' Victorious View of History, as Seen by a British Journalist."
"Foreigners, especially citizens of the Allied nations (during WW2), tend to view the historical truth in terms of judgments handed down by the Tokyo war crimes tribunal," said Fujita. "According to that view, Japan must be the villain, and anyone who attempts to assert something at odds with that is stereotypically tarred as a revisionist who is attempting to gloss over history. One of the very few correspondents who's an exception to this would be Mr Henry Scott-Stokes, who has really done his homework on the issues."
Japan faces an urgent need to assume a state of readiness to counter propaganda from China and Korea, including additional budgetary measures for issuing information, Harakawa concludes.© Japan Today