The installation of a statue in Tainan City commemorating “comfort women” was “extremely regrettable,” said Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Wednesday.
Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association (JTEA) reiterated its government’s regret over the statue, saying that the installation and display of “comfort women” statues runs against the Japanese government’s position and its efforts in facing the issue.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Andrew Lee said that Taiwan was still pushing Japan on the issue, but the statue has nothing to do with the government.
The statue was unveiled Tuesday, August 14, at a ceremony attended by former KMT (Nationalist Party of China) President Ma Ying-jeou, local KMT candidates for the upcoming local elections, and a group calling itself Tainan City Women’s Human Rights Equality Promotion Association
Tainan City Government Department of Information and International Relations Director Hsu Shufen said in a press release issued in response to the statue’s unveiling, that the event was planned by the KMT. The Tainan City Women’s Human Rights Equality Promotion Association was established in April this year with the assistance of the KMT. The land on which the statue was placed is owned by the KMT, and the event was a political activity of the KMT ahead of the municipal elections.
United Daily News noted that the statue was placed in an area surrounded by many Japanese era buildings opposite the Lin Department Store, which was built during the Japanese colonial period and attracts many Japanese tourists.
The unveiling of the statue, touted as “Taiwan’s first comfort women statue,” was widely reported by media in Japan. Some Japanese responded to the reports by saying that they would not visit Tainan because of the presence of the statue.
Some political commentators suggested the KMT had set up the statue to foment anti-Japanese sentiment ahead of the municipal elections.
The Japanese government set up the Asian Women’s Fund and offered atonement money and a letter of apology from the prime minister to victims from South Korea, Taiwan and other nations in 1995. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi also offered a formal apology in 2001.
In a speech at the unveiling, Ma called for an apology from Japan. According to Japan national newspaper, Mainichi, when it was pointed out that apologies had already been made, Ma said that “one or two Japanese politicians had in the past expressed remorse” Ma was evasive when asked what kind of apology he would deem satisfactory, according to the Mainichi report.
Tainan city councilor and KMT member Hsieh Lung-chieh said the purpose of erecting the statue is not to provoke hatred, but to promote peace and reconciliation.
“The statue will stay here forever,” Hsieh said.
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