It is not possible to maintain a sister-city relationship when the demeanor of the other party is insincere and allows historical facts to be bent in the extreme.
Hirofumi Yoshimura, mayor of the city of Osaka, sent a letter to his counterpart in the American city of San Francisco, California, informing the mayor of Osaka’s decision to sever the affiliation between their two cities.
The decision to do so was based on San Francisco’s refusal to rescind its decision to accept the donation by a group of Chinese-Americans of a “comfort women” statue and inscribed monument for display on city land.
The mayor of San Francisco, in response, issued an announcement, saying Osaka should not be allowed to unilaterally terminate sister-city ties. In her announcement, the San Francisco mayor justified the statue’s erection while using such words as “enslavement” of the so-called comfort women in the wartime past.
The announcement by the mayor of San Francisco can never be acceptable to Japan. The inscription on the side of the statue reads in part, “Hundreds of thousands of women and girls who were sexually enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces.” Such a remark itself is a blatant distortion of historical facts.
Moreover, the American city’s act of embracing these kinds of distortions about a sister city in an inscription on a statue on public property is unforgivable. It is tantamount to an endorsement of the memorial.
Osaka Mayor Yoshimura repeatedly expressed opposition to San Francisco’s moves to accept donation of the memorial in question. Yoshimura renewed his request that the city retract its decision, in a letter to the newly elected San Francisco mayor following her predecessor’s death in December 2017. That letter remained unanswered, even after the deadline set by the Osaka government for its decision on whether to continue the sister-city ties.
On top of the discourtesy of not responding, the San Francisco mayor has assumed a defiant attitude toward the city of Osaka in her recent announcement.
Regrettably, the city of Osaka would not be well-served by continuing sister-city ties with San Francisco under the circumstances. As far as the comfort women issue is concerned, any temporizing approach is obviously unnecessary.
Comfort women statues and related inscriptions that have been erected overseas are designed to debase Japan’s image in the international community. There is presumably an intention to ramp up anti-Japanese public opinion with the aim of upsetting relations with countries friendly to Japan. This can potentially place Japan’s security in jeopardy.
Above all, the comfort women statues attack the honor of the nation of Japan. Japan must be resolute in calling out malicious propaganda activities, such as the brandishing of the term “sex slaves.” It is not only the dignity of contemporary Japanese, but also that of our ancestors and future generations that must be preserved.
Fundamentally, the Japanese Foreign Ministry should be at the forefront of efforts to have the comfort women statues and inscriptions removed. It should be filing strong protests with the governments and other organizations involved in their placement overseas.
But the ministry can hardly be said to be playing an adequate role in response to the international moves aimed at humbling Japan. In this situation, protest actions exemplified by the decision of the city of Osaka should be applauded for their significance.
What Osaka has done demonstrates the grassroots determination of its citizenry not to yield to groundless smears.
Worthy of note in this connection is the fact that the city of Freiburg in southeastern Germany has done away with a plan to build a comfort women statue. Its Japanese sister city of Matsuyama impressed upon Freiburg to give the plan a second thought. Other Japanese municipalities, when facing with similar situations, should be resolute in following suit.
There have been a variety of exchanges between Osaka and San Francisco since they established sister-city relations in 1957. Although municipal-level exchange programs between the two cities have now been stopped, private-level Osaka-San Francisco reciprocal activities should be vigorously encouraged in the future.
Osaka Mayor Yoshimura’s letter to his San Francisco counterpart was in conformity with the rules of courtesy. San Francisco, for its part, should do some soul searching and give a second thought to the matter of the comfort women memorial.
(Click here to read the original article in Japanese.)
Author: Editorial, The Sankei Shimbun