Shrine casts dark shadow

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - ED­I­TO­RI­ALS

JA­PANESE PRIME MIN­IS­TER SHINZO ABE MADE A clear state­ment by hav­ing his rit­ual gift, with his name and the ti­tle of his Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party, sent to the con­tro­ver­sial Ya­sukuni Shrine on Thurs­day.

He did not visit the shrine, be­cause it would have been a slap in the face to Ja­pan’s neigh­bors and the United States, but he did not stop mem­bers of his Cabi­net from go­ing to the shrine. Even though, as he and they well know, their vis­its to the shrine were not a mat­ter of per­sonal choice, as the shrine com­mem­o­rates 14 Class A war crim­i­nals among Ja­pan’s war dead.

Thurs­day marked the an­niver­sary of Ja­pan’s sur­ren­der in World War II, and not only did Abe avoid the prom­ise usu­ally given by his pre­de­ces­sors to up­hold Ja­pan’s pledge not to en­gage in war, he also broke with two decades of tra­di­tion by not ex­press­ing any re­morse over Ja­pan’s ag­gres­sion against its neigh­bors.

The Abe ad­min­is­tra­tion is de­lib­er­ately try­ing to sweep that part of the coun­try’s past un­der the car­pet. The neo-na­tion­al­ist of­fi­cials claim that the world is prej­u­diced against Ja­pan, but that is be­cause it re­fuses to ac­knowl­edge and apol­o­gize for the suf­fer­ing it caused with its im­pe­ri­al­ist am­bi­tions.

From the Nan­jing Mas­sacre in the open­ing months of the war against China to the Rape of Manila in the fi­nal stage of the Pa­cific War, im­pe­rial Ja­pan’s soldiers left a trail of un­speak­able cru­elty and ra­pac­ity across Asia.

Abe and his sup­port­ers try to pre­tend th­ese atroc­i­ties never hap­pened, but his­tory will not be de­nied by their at­tempts to ob­fus­cate the past.

To es­cape a cri­sis of national iden­tity, some Ja­panese politi­cians have tried to re­write his­tory, claim­ing that peo­ple who do not have a his­tory to be proud of can­not con­sti­tute a na­tion. But how can peo­ple take pride in a na­tion that re­fuses to take an hon­est look at it­self?

Ja­panese con­ser­va­tive elites have proven stead­fastly dis­in­clined to se­ri­ously open ei­ther their minds or the ar­chives when it comes to the war. They re­main wed­ded to the nar­row­est tech­ni­cal no­tions of repa­ra­tions and re­dress, and still proudly com­mem­o­rate the coun­try’s Class A war crim­i­nals.

But in do­ing so they are in­cur­ring the odium of Ja­pan’s neigh­bors.

In­stead of try­ing to find glory in de­nial, they should give the coun­try back some pride by is­su­ing sin­cere state­ments of re­spon­si­bil­ity, re­pen­tance and apol­ogy.

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