View Full Version : Japan Bristles at U.S. WWII Criticism

08-12-2007, 01:57 PM
Monday, Jun. 25, 2007
From: Time magazine (http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1637191,00.html?xid=feed-cnn-topics)
By Bryan Walsh/Tokyo

Nothing can rattle the cool, calm demeanor of Shoichi Nakagawa as quickly as mention of Japan's World War II abuses committed against "comfort women" —those citizens of captive Asian nations forced into prostitution by the Japanese military. The conservative No. 3 man in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) can't hide his annoyance at the resolution, currently nearing a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, calling on Japan's Prime Minister to fully apologize for its role in abusing the "comfort women."

"This is a big headache for us," says Nakagawa, as he lights up a cigarette in his roomy Tokyo office. An avowed nationalist who doubts that the Japanese military actually forced women into prostitution, Nakagawa expresses irritation at the very idea of the U.S. lecturing Japan on wartime atrocities. "I want to ask Americans whether they were fair during the war. That's why I say, let's drop it."

Nakagawa is hardly a lone dissenter. Japan's Ambassador to the U.S. Ryozo Kato called the bill "harmful to Japan-U.S. relations," while Foreign Minister Taro Aso said it was "regrettable." Tokyo is also actively lobbying in Washington against the resolution, which is, nonetheless, expected to be adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on June 26.

Despite the hand-wringing in Tokyo, the U.S.-Japan relationship will easily survive. If anything, it has become stronger than ever amid the unease on both sides over a rising China, and that's unlikely to change as a result of a symbolic vote in Congress. "On a scale of 1 to 10, this is maybe a 1 or a 2," says Robert Dujarric, who heads the Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies at Temple University in Tokyo. "Life will go on."

The greater risk is to Japan's ever-strained relations with its Asian neighbors, which still burn with resentment over the wartime suffering inflicted on them by the Imperial Japanese Army. Their anger tends to be ignored by Tokyo, which seems to want to discuss the "comfort women" issue only with Washington. In fact, when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently uttered the closest thing he's said to an apology on the issue, it was addressed to President George W. Bush at an April summit in Washington, rather than directly to the victims. Tokyo's obsession with Washington's opinion is generally only equalled by its obliviousness towards Japan's reputation in the rest of Asia. But with neighbors such as China and South Korea flexing their growing muscles, however, that attitude may become unsustainable.

As Japan's comparative influence begins to wane, its future will increasingly be tied to Asia's — both economically, as a consumer market for Japanese exports, politically, and even demographically, as a depopulating Japan is forced to contemplate large-scale immigration to sustain its economy.

It was hoped, when Abe took office, that the Prime Minister grasped the changing Asian reality. He supports the Cool Japan marketing concept that seeks to promote Japanese pop culture like anime and manga abroad —harder to do if your neighbors dislike you — and has said that he aims to make Japan a country where foreigners would want to settle. Abe made a show of immediately traveling to Beijing and Seoul, and recently hosted the Chinese Premier in Tokyo. Those summits have been the high point of his administration, but too often that goodwill has been wasted by chauvinistic outbursts from the Prime Minister and his nationalistic allies, who feel that the last thing that Japan needs to do is apologize again for the war.

Earlier this month a group of nearly 50 Japanese lawmakers from both major political parties took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post asserting that there was no historical evidence to back up the "comfort women" allegations. Last week, an even larger group of legislators announced that they had determined that the death toll of the Nanjing Massacre — where Japanese soldiers slaughtered Chinese civilians over a three-week period — was just 20,000, one-tenth of the figure widely accepted among historians. Even without wading into the morass of what constitutes "historical evidence," such endeavors are plainly terrible for Japan's image abroad. "It really just makes the whole country look really bad," says Dujarric. "It's what you'd call an 'own goal' in soccer — and they seem totally oblivious to this."

Japanese nationalists have a point when they argue that nations like China go too far in scapegoating Japan, while conveniently forgetting the billions of dollars in economic aid Tokyo has disbursed across the region over the past decades. But that argument would be stronger if the Tokyo's own attitude towards Japan's wartime actions in Asia didn't seem so insincere.

Shoichi Nakagawa is correct when he says, of the ongoing disputes over historical controversies such the "comfort women," that "America has got nothing to do with this." But six decades later, the onus remains on Tokyo to apologize to Asia. If nothing else, it's just good PR.

—With reporting by Michiko Toyama/Tokyo

Rising Sun*
08-18-2007, 05:14 AM
It's never too late for an apology.

More than 1,200 years ago hordes of bloodthirsty Viking raiders descended on Ireland, pillaging monasteries and massacring the inhabitants. Yesterday, one of their more mild-mannered descendants stepped ashore to apologise.

The Danish culture minister, Brian Mikkelson, who was in Dublin to participate in celebrations marking the arrival of a replica Norse longboat, apologised for the invasion and destruction inflicted. "In Denmark we are certainly proud of this ship, but we are not proud of the damages to the people of Ireland that followed in the footsteps of the Vikings," Mr Mikkelson declared in his welcoming speech delivered on the dockside at the river Liffey. "But the warmth and friendliness with which you greet us today and the Viking ship show us that, luckily, it has all been forgiven."

Mr Abe might be getting the message.

Japanese leaders avoid shrine
August 16, 2007

TOKYO: Japan offered remorse yesterday for past atrocities on the anniversary of its World War II surrender as top leaders steered clear of a shrine causing friction with neighbouring countries.

Sixty-two years after Japan capitulated in the war, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged that his country would not return to war and would contribute to world peace.

Japan "caused tremendous damage and suffering to many countries, especially in Asian nations", the conservative leader said, using identical language to previous statements by Japanese leaders.

"Representing the people of Japan, I, with deep remorse, offer my condolences to the people victimised," he told an audience including Emperor Akihito.

Akihito's father, Hirohito, who was revered as divine and had never before spoken to the public, went on radio on August 15, 1945, to announce Japan had to "bear the unbearable" and surrender as its cities lay in ruins, two of them obliterated by US nuclear bombs.

Among the people at the ceremony were 101-year-old Koto Matsuoka, whose son, Kinpei, died serving in Burma three months before Japan's surrender.

"War must not occur. It's good that we have peace now," she said from her wheelchair.

Passions about the war still run high in East Asia, with many Chinese and Koreans resentful over Japanese atrocities on their soil. Koreans today celebrated "Liberation Day".

Mr Abe, the grandson of a World War II cabinet minister, is known for his conservative views on history and speaks sparingly about Japan's past wrongdoing.

But the Prime Minister, languishing politically amid domestic scandals, has cited improved relations with China and South Korea as a key achievement of his nearly year-old Government.

Mr Abe stayed away from the Yasukuni shrine, which honours war dead and war criminals alike and has been a source of friction with neighbouring countries.

Yasukuni, a Shinto shrine established in 1869, is vilified by critics for its role in shaping Japan's war ideology in the 1930s and 40s, and promoting Tokyo's imperialist expansion in Asia. It also deifies war criminals executed after World War II, such as wartime leader Hideki Tojo.

Last year, Junichiro Koizumi became the first sitting prime minister in 21 years to visit the sprawling Shinto shrine in central Tokyo on the sensitive surrender anniversary, setting off protests by China and South Korea.

Mr Koizumi, who handed power to Mr Abe last September, went again this year. Passers-by cheered as Mr Koizumi, dressed in a suit and tie, silently went into the shrine's inner sanctum in the early morning.

Only one member of the cabinet visited the Yasukuni shrine: Sanae Takaichi, the minister in charge of food safety and gender equality among other portfolios.

Forty-six members of parliament went together to the Yasukuni shrine, with some scoffing at Mr Abe's no-show.

Opposition leader Ichiro Ozawa called for Japan to take historical facts "humbly" and attacked Mr Abe, whose signature issue is rewriting the pacifist post-World War II constitution. http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,22250691-31477,00.html?from=public_rss

08-18-2007, 07:59 PM
I don't see how anybody can go so far as to deny Japanese war atrocities, or as far as asking whether or not the Americans were fair during WW2