Friday, January 26, 2007

China gives cool response to news of Nanjing massacre film by Japanese nationalists

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman hit back Thursday at a Japanese director who says he will shoot a documentary film that denies tens of thousands of people died during the Nanjing Massacre. Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said there is "ironclad" evidence, supported by the international community, that proves Japanese troops massacred soldiers and civilians when they captured what was then the Chinese capital in 1937.

Japanese director Satoru Mizushima, who has the backing of a number of conservative lawmakers and academics, announced Wednesday he is going to make the film, called "The Truth about Nanking," according to reports. "This will be our first effort to correct the errors of history through a film," Mizushima is reported to have said at a press conference in Tokyo to launch the film project.

It will be based on testimony from Japanese war veterans, archive footage and documentary evidence that proponents said will show the massacre is "nothing more" than Chinese propaganda.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

U.N. human rights commissioner to visit Japan Jan 25-27

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour will visit Japan on Jan 25 to discuss with Japanese officials how to address international human rights issues, including North Korea's past abduction of Japanese and other foreign nationals, Japan's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday.

During the three-day visit, Arbour is scheduled to meet with Foreign Minister Taro Aso and other Japanese officials. They are also expected to discuss how to go about dealing with the U.N. Human Rights Council, the ministry said.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Visitors to Japan top 8 million for 1st time in 2006

The number of visitors to Japan in 2006 reached 8.11 million in preliminary data, up 8.8% from the previous year and topping 8 million for the first time, the Justice Ministry said Friday.

The ministry attributed the figure, which marked a record for two years in a row, to increases in the number of tourists mainly from other parts of Asia following the Japanese government's efforts to attract foreign tourists plus a series of visa waivers. Of foreign visitors, the largest number came from South Korea at 2.37 million, followed by Taiwan at 1.35 million and China at 980,000.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Defense Agency upgraded to ministry

The Defense Agency was upgraded to full ministry status Tuesday for the first time since its inception in 1954 amid persistent concerns over effective civilian control of Japan's defense forces. Along with the upgrade, the Self-Defense Forces' overseas international peace cooperation activities — including disaster relief, U.N.-led peacekeeping and logistical support in regional contingencies — were redefined as main duties rather than subordinate ones.

Critics say the development has made it possible that Japan's defense policy may see a conversion from its exclusively defense-only posture to a more internationally proactive one. Against this backdrop, they are calling for tougher civilian control of the SDF, given the expectation that discussion will intensify on such issues as whether to stipulate a permanent law to make SDF dispatches overseas easier and whether to allow Japan to exercise the right of collective self-defense.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Suspect tried to cover up dismemberment of sister's body

The 21-year-old cram school student arrested on suspicion of dismembering the corpse of his sister at their home in Tokyo's Shibuya Ward appears to have tried to cover up his deeds by wiping off bloodstains from the crime site, police sources said Friday.

Traces of bloodstains, having been wiped off in his room and on the hallway walls in the three-story house, indicate that Yuki Muto killed his 20-year-old sister Azumi in his room and dragged her body into the bathroom for dismemberment, the sources said.

Severed into more than 10 pieces, the victim's head, limbs and other body parts were found packed in four plastic bags in a closet and cabinet in Muto's room on the third floor on Wednesday.

Having placed an empty aquarium on top of the cabinet, Muto was quoted as telling his father that there could be a bad smell because a shark he had been given by a friend had died.

The saw and kitchen knife, believed to have been used for the dismemberment, were family utensils and were apparently placed back to his room and kitchen with the bloodstains wiped off after the crime, according to the sources.

Azumi's head had bruises that indicate she had been hit with a blunt instrument or had hit her head as she fell over, the sources said, adding that Muto has admitted to using force in handling her.

After being arrested Thursday, Muto confessed to killing her, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

Both were living with their dentist parents and a 23-year-old brother in the building housing a dental clinic on the first floor and a residential space on the second and third floors.

Police have yet to ascertain how many days the victim had been dead, but believe her body was dismembered last Saturday.

The mother has told the police she spoke with her daughter Saturday afternoon through the intercom at the front entrance of their house.

The mother then left for a trip with her elder son on Saturday afternoon and the father left home Sunday night to join them. The three returned home Tuesday night.

Muto was also quoted by the sources as telling his father that he did not know where Azumi was when asked where she was.

Muto was quoted by the police as saying he killed his sister because she had accused him of "having no ambition."

Azumi lived in the three-story house with her dentist father Mamoru Muto, 62, her mother, 57, who is also a dentist, and two brothers — a university student aged 23 and the suspect.

The younger brother left home Sunday afternoon for Kanagawa Prefecture to take part in a cram school program for those planning to enter medical school slated to last through Jan 11, according to the police and other sources familiar with the case.

The mother and the elder brother left for a trip together Saturday afternoon and the father left home Sunday night to join them, according to the police. The three returned home Tuesday night.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Congressman to press for resolution to force Japan to acknowledge sex slave issue

A Californian congressman is planning to pass a resolution in the new Congress calling for Japan to formally acknowledge and accept responsibility for sexually enslaving women during World War II, the Hill newspaper reported Tuesday.

Japanese-American Rep Mike Honda says he will be prompting intense lobbying activities from the Korean-American community, which last year rallied behind the resolution sponsored by Evans, and from the Japanese government, which opposed the legislation.

The House International Relations Committee passed the controversial resolution last fall. Even though it did not have the force of law, it put the Japanese government on the defensive. Japan argues that it has already apologized and atoned for the treatment of what Tokyo calls "comfort women."

During its occupation of Asia and the Pacific Islands from the 1930s through the duration of WWII, Japan used as many as 200,000 young women from Korea, China, the Philippines and in some cases Western Europe for sexual servitude, a program designed to increase the efficiency and morale of the Japanese soldiers.

Honda's office is determined to reintroduce the resolution as soon as possible in the new Congress. "I look forward to seeking the justice the comfort women deserve," Honda, chairman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, said.

Rep Tom Lantos (D-Calif), incoming chairman of the panel, supported the resolution last year and is expected to do so again.

A source close to the Korean-Asian community said that Honda, as a Japanese-American taking on the issue, could attract even more support. Honda has been known to take on human-rights issues related to Japan. Honda is not a member of the International Relations Committee.

In 1999, while still in the California state legislature, Honda was successful in passing an assembly joint resolution urging Japan to formally issue a "clear and unambiguous apology for the atrocious war crimes committed by its military during World War II," the Hill reported.

According to materials sent by the Japanese Embassy, the Japanese government has extended official apologies on several occasions. One came in 1994 from then-Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama during the 50-year commemoration of the war's end.

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sent personal letters to former comfort women to extend Japan's apology and remorse, according to the embassy.

A so-called Asian Women Fund was established in 1995, but supporters of the House resolution said that the fund is private and not a government fund. Tokyo argues that the fund was established with cooperation from the government and the Japanese people, and that the government contributed funds for the organization's operating costs as well as its medical welfare support projects.

Some of the former comfort women accepted compensation from the Asian Women Fund, but many have rejected it and have held protests in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

Some critics of the congressional action say that such a resolution goes beyond asking for an apology. It puts Japan on the defensive and creates tensions between the United States and Japan, America's top ally in Asia.

"This is not just about comfort women but also about Japan's alliance responsibility in the international community," said the source close to the Korean-American community.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

J-Gov't to drop plan to allow for female monarch

The government is set to drop its plan to review imperial succession rules that bar women from succeeding to the throne, given the birth last year of the first boy in 41 years to the world's oldest hereditary monarchy, the Sankei Shimbun reported Wednesday.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is paying little attention to a proposal that a government panel made in 2005 that included a recommendation to revise the Imperial House Law in order to give priority to firstborns, regardless of gender, the national daily said.

But the newspaper also said the government will continue necessary discussions on whether Japan can maintain a stable imperial succession relying only on the births of male heirs.

The panel, organized under the initiative of Abe's predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, to study ways to ensure a stable succession, was seen as paving the way for Princess Aiko, 5, the only child of Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako, to ascend the throne.

The Imperial House Law, enacted in 1947, stipulates that only male heirs who have emperors on their father's side can ascend the imperial throne.

The Sankei said that the situation changed after Princess Kiko gave birth to a boy in September.

The boy, named Prince Hisahito, is now third in line to the throne, following Crown Prince Naruhito, 46, his uncle, and his father Prince Akishino, 41.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Japanese fishing boat, crew return from Russia after detention

The skipper and crew members of a Japanese fishing boat returned home Monday from Russia after a 2-month-long detention for illegal fishing in Russia's exclusive economic waters in the Bering Sea.

The captain of the Gyokuryu Maru from Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture, told reporters after arriving at Kushiro port in eastern Hokkaido that the crew members have no health problems but declined to comment further. Russian authorities released the boat and the crew after the skipper paid a fine.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Abe enjoys 'Letters from Iwo Jima'

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday enjoyed "Letters from Iwo Jima" at a Tokyo movie theater with his wife Akie and mother Yoko. After watching the movie that depicts the 1945 Battle of Iwojima, one of the bloodiest battles of World War II, from the Japanese perspective, Abe told reporters that the last scene, in which letters left by Japanese soldiers for their families are dug out many years after the battle, was the most memorable.

"Love for families was put into the scene," Abe said. "It was a very good film." The movie is one of Academy Award-winning director Clint Eastwood's two films about the monthlong battle for the Pacific island. The other — "Flags of Our Fathers" — opened in Japan in late October and chronicles the stories of the six U.S. soldiers who raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi as a symbol of victory.

Shinzo Abe resolves to pass referendum for revising Constitution

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed determination in a New Year's statement on Monday to have legislation for a national referendum passed during the upcoming parliamentary session to pave the way for realizing his political goal of rewriting Japan's pacifist Constitution.

"I will ensure that the flame of reforms will keep on burning," Abe said, promising also to implement concrete measures to overhaul the education system and to carry out his reform plan to transfer surplus road-related tax revenues into general revenues available for a wider range of purposes.