This year marks 70 years since the end of World War II – a significant milestone.
Many countries will hold commemorative events to mark the 70th anniversary of the guns falling silent. How will Japan deal with issues of history? The nation’s stance on this matter will be once again called into question.
Since the war ended, Japan has built itself into a peaceful nation. Based on the trust this has earned Japan, the government must again convey its “future-oriented” message to the international community. At this time, the movements of China – a nation attempting to use historical issues as diplomatic cards vis-a-vis Japan – demand close scrutiny.
China has reached an agreement with Russia to jointly hold celebratory events to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory in the war against “German fascism and Japanese militarism.”
It has also proposed to South Korea that they jointly arrange events to remember the 70th anniversary of their triumph in the war against Japan and the Korean Peninsula’s liberation from colonial rule. China and South Korea are the primary nations bringing historical issues to the fore and taking a hard-nosed diplomatic stance toward Japan. However, if Japan errs in its handling of this matter, it could create misunderstanding in the international community.
We are concerned by the extremely biased view of Japan being displayed by some media outlets in the United States and Europe. They suggest that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is a “historical revisionist” who wants to shed the postwar system.
However, Abe has adhered to the recognition of history adopted by previous cabinets and expressed “deep remorse” over the war. He is also promoting a policy of “proactive contributions to peace,” which is premised on greater international cooperation. The prime minister’s visit to Yasukuni Shrine in December 2013 led to misunderstanding spreading around the world.
So-called Class-A war criminals, including former Prime Minister Hideki Tojo, are enshrined at Yasukuni along with Japan’s war dead. Beijing slammed Abe’s visit as a “challenge to the postwar order and international justice.”
As well as eroding trust in Japan, China was trying to give the impression that it was on the side of the postwar international order.
However, it is China that is scheming to change the postwar order through the use of might, as shown by its actions in Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture and in disputed waters such as the South China Sea, where it is wrangling with the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries.
In principle, how Japan should mourn its war dead is a domestic matter. Other nations have no right to complain about this and that regarding Japan’s internal affairs.
That said, however, Japan should strictly refrain from taking any action that could bolster the anti-Japanese propaganda of neighboring countries.
One focus of attention is the statement that will be issued by the prime minister – as the official government view – in August, which will mark exactly 70 years since the war ended.
A statement by then Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama on the 50th anniversary of the end of the conflict, and a statement by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on the 60th anniversary, were approved by their respective cabinets.
Both expressed remorse for the “tremendous damage and suffering” caused to people in many countries by Japan “through its colonial rule and aggression.”
It is important that the new statement to be issued by Abe this year continues to be grounded in Japan’s reflections on the past, while also clearly spelling out its plan to contribute further to the peace and stability of the world as the nation looks to the future.
We hope that, based on the summit meeting between Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November, more meetings between the leaders of Japan, China and South Korea can quickly resume after a hiatus of several years. Even if gaps remain between each nation’s perspectives on historical issues, they should build constructive ties from a broader perspective.
On June 22, Japan and South Korea will mark 50 years since they signed the Treaty on Basic Relations. However, bilateral ties have become icy due to the issue of so-called comfort women and at present the atmosphere is not conducive to holding extravagant celebrations.
The South Korean government reportedly plans to compile a white paper on the comfort women issue by the end of this year.
In June 2014, the Japanese government released a report that examined the drafting process of the 1993 statement on comfort women by then Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono, and concluded it could not confirm that women had been forcibly taken away to serve as comfort women. The upcoming South Korean report appears to be aimed at refuting these findings. Japan must stick to its claims, which are based on historical facts.
In the United States, it is possible that ethnic Korean groups will step up their mistaken propaganda campaign that claims more than 200,000 women were forcibly taken away by the former Imperial Japanese Army and used as sex slaves.
In a recent interview with South Korean media, US Rep Ed Royce, R-Calif, who is chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, made claims including that comfort women were forcibly mobilised and lived as sex slaves, and that Japan has no defence for denying history. This anti-Japanese propaganda that dissipates views of history divorced from the facts among US politicians, intellectuals and other circles cannot be allowed to go unanswered.
In 1995, the Japanese government established the Asian Women’s Fund to help resolve the comfort women issue. Since then, a letter of apology from the Japanese prime minister, and monetary compensation has been provided to 285 former comfort women from Asia, including 61 South Koreans. This fact is barely known overseas. – (The Yomiuri Shimbun)