US Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy has reportedly given the cold shoulder to national broadcaster NHK over controversial nationalist remarks made by its top officials.

The publicly-funded broadcaster drew flak over comments made first by its new president Katsuto Momii in which he defended the Japanese imperialist army’s use of sex slaves or “comfort women” during World War II, saying such practice was commonplace for any nation at war.

The ensuing media storm had not yet died down when NHK spurred renewed outrage over comments by Naoki Hyakuta, one of its board members, blantatly denying that the Nanjing massacre of 1937 ever took place.

Although the US Embassy expressed its concern over the incendiary statements, the mission kept mum regarding Kennedy’s purported snub of the broadcaster for an interview.

NHK had made a request to the Embassy for an interview with Kennedy, the daughter of late US president John F. Kennedy, shortly after she took up her post on November 15.

Sources said the Ambassador’s schedule made it difficult for her to carry out the engagement in the early weeks of her time in Japan. A spokesman for the Embassy would not comment on the Ambassador’s schedule.

Kyodo cited “sources close to the matter,” saying that an Embassy press officer had told NHK staff that it was both Kennedy’s and Washington’s will that no interview be granted in light of Hyakuta’s remarks.”

The comments sparked “concerns by the Ambassador and Washington that an appearance on NHK would negative impact the country’s image,” according to sources.

Last month, Momii said that he found international anger over the “reality” of comfort women “puzzling.”

Hyakuta further fueled fears that NHK is bowing to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s nationalist agenda when he dismissed the murder and rape in Nanjing was part of Chinese propaganda at the time.

“Countries in the world ignored the propaganda produced [by then-Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek] … that Japan’s troops carried out a massacre in Nanjing. Why? There was no such thing,” Hyakuta said during a speech during election campaigns for the Tokyo gubernatorial race.

The US embassy called Hyakuta’s claim preposterous.

By Maesie Bertumen

Image: Bill Hersey