Abe’s stance on past to de­cide Ja­pan’s fu­ture

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE -

Ja­panese PrimeMin­is­ter Shinzo Abe is ex­pected to in­clude two key words, “apol­ogy” and “ag­gres­sion”, in a speech he will de­liver on Aug 14 to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of­World War II, Ja­pan’s public broad­caster NHK said onMon­day.

The ini­tial draft, ex­press­ing Ja­pan’s deep re­morse over the war, and high­light­ing how it be­came a paci­fist coun­try in the post­war era and its fu­ture con­tri­bu­tion to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, re­port­edly did not in­clude the word “apol­ogy”.

In­deed, a gen­uine apol­ogy should come from the bot­tom of one’s heart, which is un­likely in Abe’s case even if he apol­o­gizes to the coun­tries that suf­fered un­der Ja­panese in­va­sion and oc­cu­pa­tion be­fore and dur­ing WWII, in­clud­ing China and the then un­di­vided Korea. But still, the Ja­panese leader de­serves some credit if he fi­nally agrees to do the right thing.

For­mer Ja­panese prime min­is­ter Tomi­ichiMu­rayama ren­dered a sin­cere “apol­ogy” for Ja­pan’s “ag­gres­sion” in his land­mark state­ment in 1995. In 2005, Ju­nichiro Koizumi, then prime min­is­ter, re­peated the state­ment while ad­dress­ing the 2005 Asian-African Sum­mit.

On the other hand, Abe has not only avoided apol­o­giz­ing for Ja­panese atroc­i­ties, but also tried to white­wash Ja­pan’s shame­ful past. Just four months ago at the 2015 Asian-African Sum­mit in Jakarta, he promised to ex­press “deep re­morse” for what his coun­try did in Asia be­fore and dur­ing WWII, but stopped short of of­fer­ing a “heart­felt apol­ogy” for Ja­pan’s “colo­nial rule and ag­gres­sion”. He did the same thing while de­liv­er­ing a speech at a joint meet­ing of the US Congress in April.

Con­trary to Abe’s re­it­er­a­tion, the term “deep re­morse” is am­bigu­ous and ex­press­ing it does not nec­es­sar­ily mean he will re­flect upon the wars that Ja­pan waged on its neigh­bors. Many Ja­panese right-wingers, in­clud­ing Abe, be­lieve Ja­pan was de­feated in WWII be­cause of the then gov­ern­ment’s ar­ro­gance that made it chal­lenge, not be­friend, the almighty US.

The fact is, how­ever, China’sWar of Re­sis­tance Against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1937-45) dealt the fi­nal blow to the im­pe­rial

Ja­pan. With re­gard to his speech in­Wash­ing­ton in April, whether Abe was ex­press­ing “deep re­morse” over Ja­pan’s sud­den at­tack on Pear­lHar­bor in 1941 or its full-scale in­va­sion of China in 1937, re­mains un­clear. Hope­fully, his Aug 14 speech will make that clear.

Abe’s apol­ogy, if he does ren­der one, will be of great his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance to all coun­tries that suf­fered Ja­panese ag­gres­sion. In its ab­sence, China and other Asian coun­tries will re­main alert to Abe’s moves, such as ef­forts to remil­i­ta­rize Ja­pan us­ing the pre­text of the US-Ja­pan al­liance and his new se­cu­rity bills, which could trig­ger an arms race in East Asia and desta­bi­lize the re­gion.

Co­op­er­a­tion will ben­e­fit China and Ja­pan both, while con­fronta­tion will have the op­po­site ef­fect. This is most ev­i­dent in bi­lat­eral trade, which reached $312 bil­lion in 2014 — about 21 per­cent of Ja­pan’s to­tal for­eign trade and 7.5 per­cent of China’s. If ten­sions are not de­fused, both coun­tries will suf­fer, only that Ja­pan will suf­fer more be­cause it will be­come even more dif­fi­cult for it to nar­row the huge trade deficit with China. Of­fi­cial fig­ures show that at the be­gin­ning of last year, more than 54 per­cent of the Ja­panese en­ter­prises op­er­at­ing in China were will­ing to ex­pand their busi­nesses. Yet de­clin­ing Ja­panese in­vest­ment in China — it dropped by more than 38 per­cent year-on-year in 2014 — presents a dif­fer­ent pic­ture.

Ap­par­ently, the in­her­ent po­lit­i­cal un­cer­tain­ties in Chi­naJa­pan re­la­tions have played a role in shrink­ing eco­nomic ex­changes. These un­cer­tain­ties can only be re­moved if Abe sin­cerely apol­o­gizes for Ja­pan’s mil­i­tarist past. The an­swer will be known in a day. The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor of Ja­panese stud­ies at Fu­dan Univer­sity in Shang­hai.


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