"Today, the House will send a message to the government of Japan that it should deliver an official, unequivocal, unambiguous apology for the indignity the comfort women suffered," said Rep. Mike Honda, the California Democrat who pushed the legislation through the House.Why in the world would we pass this?
The LDP is Japan's pro-American party. It just got walloped in the Upper House, losing 28 of 242 seats. Now, as Abe attempts to remain as prime minister in a split Diet (the Lower House, controlled by the LDP, is essentially more powerful than the Upper House, especially when it comes to selecting the PM, so outside of constituency pressures causing individual LDP-coalition members to turn against him, Abe should be able to keep his position), the US House spits on its strongest ally in East Asia.
The resolution doesn't even do anything. It's a 'symbolic' gesture, a way of giving Tokyo the political finger.
The coalition led by the LDP is comprised of conservative and nationalistic members, potentially crucial elements in providing a counterweight to growing Chinese influence in Asia. It represents the best chance for Japan to continue its rapid militarization, a desirable development that will lessen the 'need' for the 40,000 US troops currently stationed in Japan (until only a couple of years ago, we actually had more military personnel in Japan than we did in South Korea).
Japan's conduct during WWII, especially regarding China, has been an explosive issue in international East Asian politics over the last few years. The Japanese, like the Chinese, are ethnically homogenuous and proud of that ethnicity (to an extent that would be considered 'racist' by the standards of most Western countries). We insulted Tokyo right after it had made clear the damage such a conspicuous insult could have on US-Japanese relations:
In an unusually blunt letter sent to five House leaders, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Japanese Ambassador Ryozo Kato said passage of the resolution "will almost certainly have lasting and harmful effects on the deep friendship, close trust and wide-ranging cooperation our two nations now enjoy."Uh, we did decimate Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the same war. Why invite a petty and fruitless exchange of accusations over something that happened more than sixty years ago?
The ambassador said that since 1993 Japan has repeatedly and officially apologized for its harsh treatment of "comfort women," the term used for the estimated 50,000 to 200,000 Asian women forced by the Japanese government into brothels before and during World War II.
We also put US residents of Japanese descent in internment camps while it raged on. Yes, we apologized for the latter. So what? A voluntary concession by one party to a dispute does not mandate a concession by the other. Those are unofficial, accepted rules that govern Anglo relationships. But most of the world is neither like us nor desires to be so. In any case, the House isn't asking for an apology to the US. That might be a populist tactic, but it could at least be beneficial in some way. Instead, we're asking for an apology on behalf of a friend to a potential rival in return for, apparently, nothing.
There may be a silver lining or two, though:
His June 22 letter, obtained by The Washington Post, also suggests that Japan may reconsider its role as one of the few loyal supporters of U.S. policy in Iraq, where it is the second-largest donor for rebuilding, after the United States.Despite coming to power on the unpopularity of the war in Iraq, the death rate of American troops in Iraq has increased under the new Democratically-controlled Congress. The PM change in Britain has given that country's Labor party leadership a chance to scale back its involvement in and support for the coalition in Iraq, and Democrats in the US may see this squabble as a way of getting Japan to relent on its support for the US-led effort as well.
In the letter, immediately after warning of "lasting and harmful effects," Kato gives an example of what could be at risk for the United States, noting that Japan has recently extended for another two years its spending on reconstruction in Iraq.
Congressional leaders may also see the LDP's series of gaffes as ultimately leading down a path to leadership change in Japan (PM Abe's approval rating has dipped below 30%), and hope to garner support from the more leftist (the left-right divide doesn't translate well to East Asian politics) DPJ ahead of its ascension.
Hopefully. Because it strikes me as a foolish slap in the face to the world's third largest economy, a nation with a unique culture and composition that renders it naturally close to no other country that the US benefits from a positive relationship with in a host of ways.