A major U.S. newspaper has joined the international outcry over the historical denialism of leaders of Japan's public broadcaster NHK and asked Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to condemn these comments with "equal clarity."
The new NHK Chairman Katsuto Momii told a news conference on Jan. 25 that "comfort women" -- an euphemism for women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels -- were common in countries at war at that time, and that media "cannot say left when the government says right."
The NHK leadership further fueled the situation as Naoki Hyakuta, a novelist and member of NHK's decision-making body, said earlier this month that the 1937 Nanjing Massacre in China had never happened, adding that the United States sought to cover up its own "crimes" such as the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by holding trials of Japan's war-time leaders.
"In fact, 'comfort women' is a euphemism for a uniquely Japanese system. In many cases the enslavement lasted for years, and many of the women died," the Washington Post said in an editorial dated February 12.
As to Hyakuta's "offensive" denial of the Nanjing Massacre, the paper quoted a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Tokyo as saying that "these suggestions are preposterous."
Unfortunately, Abe's attitude towards these provocative comments is ambiguous, as a Japanese government spokesman claimed that Momii and Hyakuta's offensive statements are "individual" and the prime minister cannot "infringe on freedom of speech."
However, the Washington Post pointed out that these remarks, made by Abe's handpicked NHK leadership, made his responsibility particularly heavy in this case.
"Why can't Japan's government bring itself to condemn these comments with equal clarity? When neighboring countries complain about Japanese attempts to rewrite or sugarcoat the history of World War II, Japanese officials like to point out that they can't infringe on freedom of speech," the paper said.
"Japan's historical revision deserves clarification from Abe," it noted, criticizing Abe's "obtuseness reflected in the NHK flap."
Japan's rewriting of history also made U.S. officials wondering "whether Abe is primarily a nationalist or a reformer," the paper warned.
"Only he can make clear whether he supports an independent press and rejects destructive historical denialism," the Washington Post said.