TV & Radio
Rep. Honda: ‘It’s the Right Thing To Do’
From the Nichi Bei Times Weekly February 22, 2007
By KENJI G. TAGUMA
Nichi Bei Times
SAN JOSE ・The Nichi Bei Times caught up with Congressman Mike Honda (D-San Jose) at the San Jose Day of Remembrance commemoration to discuss the controversial House Resolution 121, which he recently introduced calling on the government of Japan “to formally acknowledge and apologize for the Japanese Imperial Armed Forces’ World War II-era coercion of some 200,000 young women ・known as ‘comfort women’ ・ into sexual slavery.”
Nichi Bei Times: Why did you decide to pursue this resolution now?
Mike Honda: Well there’s less than 300 of them left, out of 200,000 that were victimized. So every day is a day that we lose an opportunity to get them an apology.
NBT: Ambassador Ryozo Kato has said that the resolution could adversely affect U.S.-Japan relations…
MH: That is hogwash.
NBT: What kind of feedback, if any, have you received directly from the Japanese government?
MH: We told them we were going to do this, so we gave them fair warning. My staff has met with the Embassy, I’ve met with members of the Embassy, I’ve met with their lobbyist, and they’re all good people. But they’re wrong.
NBT: Have they attempted to change your mind in any way?
MH: Yes. They offered to extend the Asian Women’s Fund beyond March 31st if I would do something ・I can’t remember what it was ・but I can’t. I won’t.
NBT: A vote on the last draft was blocked in September by the Republican majority. What assures you that it will pass this time?
MH: Those who are uncomfortable with it, they may need a little time to learn more about the history and the fact that the Japanese government says “we apologized.” ...It is my sense that the prime ministers of the past have expressed a personal regret, but not on behalf of the government. What that means is that the Diet has to make the formal action of apology and then shared by the prime minister on behalf of the government, much like Congress passed H.R. 442 that was signed by the president (which provided for redress and reparations for Japanese Americans). That’s a clear, unequivocal apology.
NBT: During the process of Assembly Joint Resolution 27 (while in the California state Assembly), some Japanese Americans had criticized you for your call for an apology and redress from the Japanese government for victims of its military atrocities during World War II. How have Japanese Americans reacted to this particular resolution?
MH: I think most people who understand the history are supportive of it. I think some who hear the idea that Japan has formally apologized will question whether we need this or not, without understanding the words and the sentiments and the context in which these apologies in the past were made ・they were individual, personal regrets, not formal government process of apologies.
NBT: Have you consulted with any other Japanese American politicians on this?
MH: I brought it before CAPAC (Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus). I didn’t ask for support, as I did for the (Filipino American) veterans. I think it’s a matter of conscience.
NBT: Do you think that they would not support you?
MH: I think some of them would. I don’t know if all of them would.
NBT: You’re pretty confident that it’s going to pass?
MH: It should come to the floor at the minimum, because it came to the floor last time. Once it comes to the floor, we’ll just leave it up to the good will and the conscience of the people who have to make the decision. I think that thoughtful people will support it.
NBT: Why should Japanese American community members support this?
MH: Because it’s the right thing to do. Reconciliation is an action that members of Congress on behalf of countries should urge each other to do. We have issues too, and I acknowledge that… I think Japan’s relationships with other Asian countries will be enhanced.