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On August 21, it was confirmed that chemical weapons were used on civilians in Syria, and it is speculated that the country’s own president, Bashar al Assad, is behind the attacks. The news has sent shockwaves around the world, with US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf commenting, “I think that it’s clear that Syria violated international law here. They used chemical weapons in an indiscriminate manner with respect to civilians.”

Many agree with Ms. Harf’s words, but it is a question that was posed by a Reuters journalist, likening Syria’s actions to that of the United States’ use of atomic weapons during WWII, that has many people in Japan talking.

The following  is a quote from the U.S. Department of State daily press briefing on August 28.

QUESTION: Was the U.S. use of nuclear weapons resulting in the mass and indiscriminate killing of civilians in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki a violation of the same international law that you are referring to?

MS. HARF: I’m not even going to entertain that question, Arshad.


MS. HARF: Moving on. Yes.

Marie Harf’s refusal to answer the question has prompted people in Japan to comment on the matter, many of whom took to Twitter to voice their opinion. Some were impressed that the question was even asked at all, stating, “There isn’t a journalist in all of Japan that would go that far,” and “Wow! For that Reuters reporter to ask such a question in that situation…” Some wondered why the Japanese media wasn’t asking this question, saying, “By all rights, isn’t this a question that a Japanese person from the Japanese media should be asking, not a foreign media source?” Some went as far as to deride the Japanese media for not asking the question sooner, commenting, “It’s pathetic that a member of our own press didn’t ask this question.” Others, meanwhile, were perplexed as to why a member of the foreign media was even asking the question in the first place, remarking, “I’d understand if a Japanese reporter or the Prime Minister of Japan said this. It’s just like Reuters to do that.”

Some Japanese commenters showed disapproval of the past actions of the United States:

“Even in wartime, violence against civilians as well as murder is a crime and will be punished. It goes without saying that the fact that a densely populated civilian area was chosen as the site to drop the atomic bomb is mass murder.”

“Yes. The murderous acts of war that target non-combatants, the A-bomb, the firebombing of Tokyo, the carpet bombings and use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, are all violations of international law.”

Opinions on this matter were incredibly varied. Some Japanese commenters approved, stating, “This is a very important question.” But others weren’t so impressed: “What a stupid question. The state of international affairs is completely different now.”

But regardless of whether or not you approve of the asking of such a controversial question, one commenter writes what many of us are thinking: “I really want to know how she would have answered this.”

Source: MSN News Japan, Twitter (user comments), U.S. Department of State
Images: Wikipedia Commons (1, 2)