Ask an American journalist, “Do you trust the Chinese government?” If the answer is yes, there is nothing more to talk about. If the answer is no, the next question is, “Do you trust them to tell the truth about Japan?”
China is leading a deadly information war. The first target is Japan. The ultimate target is the United States. For more than two years, our research team and I have been warning that a Chinese radicalization program will lead to terrorism against Japanese. These predictions are proving true, so far with minor attacks. In November 2015, a Korean extremist detonated an explosive device inside the grounds of Yasukuni Shrine. He fled to South Korea but was arrested when he returned to Japan the following month.
In 2013, another Korean broke into Yasukuni Shrine and threw canisters of paint thinner on the structures inside, perhaps in an attempt to recreate the arson attack of 2011 when a Chinese national set fire to one of Yasukuni’s gates. The man responsible for the 2013 incident later attacked the Japanese embassy in Seoul—but when South Korean authorities were told of his earlier crimes at Yasukuni, they refused to extradite him to stand trial in Japan.
In 2010, Comfort Woman activist Kim Ki-Jong—who has made a point of having himself photographed with Comfort Woman statues—tried to assassinate the Japanese ambassador to Korea. Kim was hailed as a hero in South Korea and showered with donations. In 2015, Kim attempted another assassination, this time of the then-U.S. ambassador to Korea, Mark Lippert, who was slashed in the face with a knife in the bloody attack.
As the Chinese and South Korean media and governments intensify their demonization of Japan, we can expect that these kinds of incidents will become increasingly common.
I personally researched this topic and others in eleven countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Most countries depicted in propaganda as having anti-Japan grievances are the opposite. For example, Japan fought for Indonesian independence and its soldiers are buried at the Indonesian equivalent of Arlington National Cemetery. A teammate and I saw Japanese buried with honors up front among thousands of Muslim graves.
Thailand is another country believed to harbor animosity. Thais hold no animosity for Japanese. They were allies. Relations are warm at the government level and at the street level. Today, my Thai family (I am American) often vacations in Japan. There is a large memorial in a school for Japanese soldiers in Ban Kat, near my office. Would Thais permit a memorial for 18,000 soldiers in a school if Japanese had ravaged the area? I asked former Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva during a private conversation in Bangkok if Thailand holds any position about Yasukuni Shrine or Comfort Women issues—the answer was no.
A handful of Japanese claim there were no war crimes during World War II, such as at Bataan or at Kanchanaburi. We researched at those places and many more—those crimes were real. Contrary to propaganda, most Japanese who have studied the subjects acknowledge and demonstrate remorse for what can be proven or sufficiently supported.
However, propaganda that Japanese kidnapped up to 400,000 sex-slaves for the Comfort Women system is false. There were scattered cases, such as on Java in the Dutch East Indies. I found what appear to be three new cases in Myanmar and I interviewed a 97-year-old survivor. However, they mostly were volunteers. There is evidence that some were tricked, typically by Korean brokers. But the propaganda persists. Just 20 years ago, they were saying 200,000 were kidnapped, and before that 20,000. At this rate of inflation, we will soon reach a million.
An American author and journalist for a major magazine travelled to Seoul and then suddenly published an article about Comfort Women, using the Chinese/Korean talking points. I called him, asking where he got the information.
He and other journalists were invited on a tour. They were presented with “compelling” displays. I went on the same tour but at a different time. The scam is obvious. No serious researcher would fall for it, yet journalists repeat false narratives daily, like crows cawing on wires. False news spreads, often gaining enough inertia to crush anyone who stands in its way.
I politely mentioned that he walked into an information ambush. He became defensive, accusing me of being a Holocaust denier. The Holocaust was real, the evidence is deep, and has nothing to do with Japan. He was the perfect tool. Information warriors depend upon keyboard-crows. Without crows, none of this would work.
During three weeks of research in Seoul, I was at the main Comfort Women statue almost daily, sometimes several times per day. Students camp by the statue 24-hours, for more than a year now, as part of the Chong Dae Hyup group that hosts the protests. Catholic nuns often protest with them into the nights. I visited the Franciscan Friary in Seoul, only to find a comfort woman statue out front.
In China, I visited the colossal museum for the Nanjing Massacre. Such monuments must have cost tens of millions of dollars. The place is one of the many anti-Japan hate initiatives sponsored by the Chinese government, on a quality level with Disney. Lines of busses arrive full of students, led by guides carrying brightly colored flags. Museum displays are unforgettable, shocking. More than a thousand displays are perfectly lighted for smartphone cameras. Photography of the beheaded is encouraged.
Museums are frontline weapons.
War crimes occurred at Nanjing from various sides. Japanese are partly responsible but not to the extent of customary Chinese exaggerations. Japan has demonstrated remorse while China never admits wrongdoing. China now claims that 300,000 were murdered and many raped. American anti-Japanese reports at the time put the number at 20,000 to 30,000. Many deaths were caused by the Chinese Civil War—which the Chinese never mention.
Bottom line: Japanese committed war crimes at Nanjing, the number was far fewer than advertised, Chinese forces committed many of the atrocities, and China uses it today as hate fertilizer.
Laura Hillenbrand, bestselling author of the book Unbroken, fell into the tar when she twice repeated the false claim that Japanese killed all 5,000 Koreans on Tinian Island in 1944. We challenged her claim. The normal scorn-fest ensued. Hillenbrand made allegations of war crimes against people who may still be alive. There is no statute of limitations on war crimes.
Shortly after Hillenbrand’s 1944 alleged massacre, U.S. forces invaded and occupied Tinian Island, and launched two atomic attacks from there. Our team found many documents, including a monthly U.S. census—the Korean islanders were alive and well. Koreans even donated $666.35 to the United States to defeat Japan.
Our team proved that Hillenbrand deceived her readers. I finally offered $20,000 to Hillenbrand, or the first person who could prove her claims, which would be amazingly easy if her accusations were true. No one has claimed the money.
Another item dragged into this fight is Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, where I and many other American veterans have paid respects to Japanese who fought our ancestors. Inciting hatred focused on Comfort Women and Nanking is designed to make people emotionally respond to visits to Yasukuni. Yet again, these same writers never mention the irony that China worships a wax figure of Mao under glass in Beijing,.
Comparing Yasukuni with Arlington invites protest from some Americans, who gerrymander definitions to fit favorable visions, or say that war criminals are enshrined at Yasukuni. An argument can be made that war criminals are buried at Arlington. Confederates from the U.S. Civil War are buried there. They fought in part to continue slavery. American soldiers who committed war crimes in the Philippine insurrection, against Native Americans, and in almost every war, are certainly buried there.
One example is General Samuel W. Koster, who was compared to General Tomoyuki Yamashita during the My Lai war crimes trials in the Vietnam War. He is buried with honors in West Point Cemetery Sec. 18, Row G, Grave 084B. Would Americans take seriously any complaint from Vietnam of a president or other government official paying respects at Arlington or West Point Cemetery?
One of our revered leaders, Curtis LeMay, famously said, “If we'd lost the war, we'd all have been prosecuted as war criminals.”
Japanese view death differently than do many others. In the Shinto way, when people die, all are equal. Suddenly there are no generals, no privates, no criminals, no saints. Everyone is neutral. There is a memorial in Los Angeles for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was formed during World War II and consisted mostly of Japanese-Americans. The 442nd became the most decorated unit for its size in U.S. history. The 442nd has a legitimate memorial. A place of authentic honor. At the 442nd memorial is a large wall of names of fallen heroes, with no ranks. Their souls are equal, in keeping with the Japanese way.
Over 2.4 million individuals are enshrined at Yasukuni, including Koreans, and even war animals who died in service, including 14 Class-A war criminals. The Chinese masterfully use this to trick Americans and prod Koreans. Meanwhile they continue to worship Mao while casting stones at Japan, and gullible Americans especially never catch on to the irony. Koreans like to ignore that they fought as Japanese citizens, and as Japanese soldiers and officers. Many of the “Japanese” guards who abused U.S. prisoners were Korean. This seldom is mentioned.
China kills two birds by diverting attention from their own crimes while creating friction in U.S. relations with Japan by playing up that Japanese pray at Yasukuni to conjure evil spirits. This is like a movie plot.
On 29 December 2016, Japan’s Defense Minister visited Yasukuni Shrine. Predictably, the Washington Post ran the following message:
TOKYO — Japan’s Defense Minister Tomomi Inada, just back from Pearl Harbor, on Thursday visited a Tokyo shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, including convicted war criminals…The visit, and one by another Cabinet minister the day before, drew rebukes from neighboring South Korea and China.
The Chinese are radicalizing people for conflict. This is more than a mind game. People are being weaponized. It is only a matter of time before Japanese are being killed from the products of Chinese hate farming, and the myth of Japanese militarization will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Gullible reporters will need to account for their role in this outcome.
Michael Yon is a former Green Beret who has been working as an independent writer and photographer since the 1990s and reported from the Iraq and Afghan Wars, and during unrest in Thailand. His investigation of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) report found that the U.S. government uncovered no evidence of forced abductions or sexual enslavement in Japan's Comfort Women programs.