While in Canberra, Australia’s Senate was in turmoil over Tony Abbott’s second attempt to carry out his central policy of “axing the carbon tax” – where was Tony Abbott?
Why, Tony was at an iron ore mine in the Pilbara, Western Australia, , fawning over visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. “You can indeed see that Japan and Australia is in a mutually idealistic, complementary relationship,” fawned Tony.
I had already been feeling more than a little nauseated by the reception given by the Abbott government, with Abe starring at a joint sitting of Parliament, being feted by both sides of politics. That couldn’t have happened in America, nor in South Korea. Nor,of course, in China, or in several Asian nations.
Tony Abbott and the Australian parliament seem to be oblivious of this. Is there some kind of collective amnesia in Australia? Though it is a long time ago, the facts remain about Japanese atrocities in World War 2, and of Japan’s inadequate or non-existent apologies for these, as well as lack of reparations. What has made this situation worse, has been the record of Shinzo Abe’s attempts to minimise or deny these atrocities.
America and Korea are still very much aware of the issue of Japan’s wartime sex slaves – the “comfort women” They are still waiting for the actions demanded by the USA government in 2007 – United States House of Representatives House Resolution 121 which demands that the Japanese government apologise to former comfort women and include curriculum about them in Japanese schools, citing 1921 International Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Women and Children.
Japan has never properly acknowledged its abduction, rape and sexual enslavement of tens of thousands of women during World War II. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has gone further than just not acknowledging this. Abe led moves to keep this out of history books, in the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. On Abe;s homepage, he questioned that the Comfort Women were coerced (this page was subsequently removed) Japan did make a partial apology in 1993, but Abe is re-examining the study that was the basis of the apology. He is continuing his efforts to deny that Japan’s wartime government and military established and ran the brothel system, and that the women were forced into the system against their will. All this at the same time as newly revealed hundreds of official documents provide clear evidence.
From 1932 to 1945 up to 200,000 women, from Korea, Japan and the Dutch East Indies, were enslaved by the The Japanese Imperial Army. These women and girls, some only 12 years old, were abducted, in some cases, bought from their impoverished parents, and taken to ‘comfort stations’ throughout the Pacific, and kept for months on end as sex slaves.
The war crimes of the Japanese Imperial army occurred in many Asian countries during the 1930s and 1940s but predominantly in China. The Japanese slaughtered as many as 30 million Filipinos, Malays, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Indonesians and Burmese, at least 23 million of them ethnic Chinese. Confessions of war criminals set out a grim picture: “The crimes include killing, arresting, enslaving and poisoning the Chinese people, raping Chinese women, manufacturing biological weapons, releasing poison gas, destroying towns and villages and expelling peaceful inhabitants”.
Since the 1950s the Japanese government has made a number of apologies. However, Prime Minister Abe has been criticised recently in a report Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress , for downplaying the seriousness of this history. The report pointed out “comments and actions on controversial historical issues by Prime Minister Abe and his Cabinet have raised concern that Tokyo could upset regional relations in ways that hurt U.S. interests.”
Shinzo Abe recently and very publicly visited the Yasukuni shrine, which honours Japan’s war dead soldiers, and includes the graves of several A class war criminals. The U.S. State Department was not pleased – “the United States is disappointed that Japan’s leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan’s neighbours” Of course, China, Korea and several Asian neighbouring countries were not pleased either.
Japan’s treatment of prisoners of war was barbaric. The largest and worst treated group was the Chinese – their soldiers were killed literally by many thousands – by shooting, buried alive baynoetting, beheading, medical experimentation, and other methods. .Chinese civilians were murdered in even greater numbers. Chinese. American, Australian, British, Canadian, Dutch, Indian and Filipino POWs were starved, brutalized, and used for forced labour.
For decades, U.S. soldiers who were held captive by Imperial Japan during World War 2 have sought official apologies and compensation from the Japanese government for their treatment.
It is therefore understandable that Shinzo Abe is not welcomed to the US Congress, and the National Assembly of South Korea.
But what of the 20,000 Australian soldiers taken prisoner by the Japanese in 1942? Many were taken from Singapore and Java to various locations in Burma and Thailand. 12 000 worked on the Burma-Thailand Death Railway. “Australian soldiers were forced to move two cubic metres of earth, regardless of their level of health, size, or physical capabilities. They were given no tools and were usually without shoes or clothes, other than underpants, swimming trunks or handmade loin cloths.” As well as enduring the dreadful living conditions, poor food, diseases, tropical ulcers, and the relentless 24 hour work shifts, they were cruelly treated.- they “were hit anywhere and everywhere – in the groin, on ulcers and wounds, broken bones, faces, necks, backs……The Japanese guards often punished the sick and injured as a deterrent to falling ill in the first place….2646 died of starvation, disease, exhaustion, and brutality”
Some Australians are not happy with Tony Abbott’s government’s sycophantic attitude to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Addressing the Parliament on the visit of Abe, Tony Abbott admired the skill and the sense of honour of Japanese submariners. RSL president Rear Admiral Ken Doolan said that many RSL soldiers would not agree, and would say that some Japanese forces in WW2 did not behave with honour.
I am appalled that the Australian government is oblivious to the international reputation of Shinzo Abe as one who would sweep all that history under the carpet. His attitude is in contrast to that of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has very publicly recognised the German atrocities – “we have an everlasting responsibility for the crimes of national-socialism, for the victims of World War II, and above all, for the Holocaust,”
Australia’s international relations are not served well by the way that Abbott has cosied up to Shinzo Abe. For a start, we might consider Australia’s largest trading partner, China. Trade Minister Andrew Robb Mr Robb, speaking on Sky News’s Australian Agenda on July 14 assured us that Australia’s new special relationship with Japan is not affecting our relationship with China. Yet on 9th July, China’s official newsagency described Abbott’s praise of Japanese forces in World War 2 as “appalling” and “insensible” and “under a moral bottom line.”
As Australia gears up to buy Japanese defence equipment and technology, and as Shinzo Abe addresses Parliament on moving our two countries closer to a strategic defence alliance, we might wonder about the wisdom of aligning Australia militarily with Japan.
One champion of the water, Australian swimmer Dawn Fraser was ecstatic to meet Prime Minister Abe – “it was a great honour…. He’s a lovely prime minister”.
I’m not sure that those other great swimmers, the whales, would agree.