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More aggressive external communications: False report about comfort women issues damages national interests Need to enhance communications

November 4, 2014

Tomomi Inada

The Committee on International Communications (Chairperson: Yoshiaki Harada, member of the House of Representatives), which works under the Party's Headquarters for Regional Diplomatic and Economic Partnership (Chairperson: Seishiro Eto, member of the House of Representatives), responded in September to false reports regarding comfort women by issuing a request to the government that it be more aggressive in communicating Japan's position to the international community. The Committee considered the reports to "significantly damage the reputation of Japan and its national interests." We spoke with Chairperson Harada about external communication and how it should be enhanced in the future.


Need to enhance communications


Q: What is your opinion of the false report issue?


The Party's Committee on International Communications Chairperson Yoshiaki Harada: The Asahi Shimbun acknowledged that it had made false reports and apologized for them, but not to the government or the people. Nor have these events fixed Japan's reputation with the international community.


The apology retracts the allegation that comfort women were "forcibly taken away," which undermines the rationale behind the Coomaraswamy Report issued by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the efforts to erect statues and monuments in remembrance of the comfort women. We, therefore, need to take measures that will quickly restore Japan's honor.


Japan has issues with its neighbors, not merely in terms of the comfort women and other perceptions of history, but also in terms of territory itself. These have traditionally been bilateral issues, but they now come up for discussion in diplomacy with the United States and in other forums. This is visible evidence that Japan is losing the information war.


Q: What do you think about Japan's external communications problem?


Harada: I think it can be summed up by saying that we do not understand the true value of information in the context of international politics and economic competition, and that we have a decisive lack of an appropriate sense of urgency.


You can see this in forums like international conferences. Also when you compare Japan against China and Korea, they have actively set up educational institutions in their own languages in other countries and international broadcasting services, and engage in active, aggressive information strategies. Japan is far behind either one in terms of both quality and quantity. We need to develop and implement our own international information strategy, and we need to do so calmly and dispassionately, but also boldly.


The Committee was established in March, and it has engaged in active discussions of international information strategy, which led to the submission of an interim report to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in June.


Q: What are the key points in the interim report?


Harada: As I said when I discussed the information wars, it is crucial that we be "aggressive" in our communications. Obviously, we need to do a better job of gathering and analyzing information on the communications strategies of other countries, but we also need to enhance our public institutions in other countries that serve as communications points, establish new international broadcasting mechanisms, and also be active in our approaches to legislators and business and intellectual leaders in other countries. These efforts must go beyond "public relations," and take the form of "strategic information." We have requested the budgetary measures to accomplish this.


Q: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has increased its request for the international communications budget by 50 billion yen.


Harada: If you look at the content of the request, you will see that, right at the very top, it highlights "strategic external communications" as a crucial policy, and includes a number of programs for it. There is, for example, the "Japan House" idea, which would create institutions that could serve as communications points, and this is something that I really want to see achieved.


These efforts are, I think, the result of Prime Minister Abe's commitment to "restoring Japan." As a committee, we fully support that position, and we hope to deepen the discussion on an international information strategy.

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