Half-hearted rec­on­cil­i­a­tion likely to stir Asia-Pa­cific

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe said on Mon­day he would send a mes­sage to the world dur­ing his visit to Pearl Har­bor in Hawaii that Ja­pan will never re­peat the atrocities of past wars. Which, as far as it goes, is a mes­sage that can be wel­comed by all, es­pe­cially Ja­pan’s neigh­bors which have been the main vic­tims. How­ever, as is so of­ten the case with Abe when it comes to this pe­riod in his coun­try’s im­pe­ri­al­is­tic his­tory, it at­tempts to hide more than it shows, since atrocities such as the sneak at­tack on Pearl Har­bor were symp­toms of the ill­ness rather than the cause.

Abe’s visit with US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama on Tues­day comes 75 years af­ter Ja­pan’s in­fa­mous at­tack pro­pelled the United States into World War II, and is aimed at show­ing the for­mer en­e­mies are now rec­on­ciled. It is be­lieved to be in re­turn for the May visit by Obama to Hiroshima, the city on which the US military dropped the first atomic bomb, when Obama made a speech be­moan­ing “the agony of war”.

On that oc­ca­sion, Obama stopped short of of­fer­ing an apol­ogy. Like­wise, Abe will not apol­o­gize for the at­tack on Pearl Har­bor, ac­cord­ing to a Ja­panese gov­ern­ment spokesman.

If there is no apol­ogy, and Tokyo and Wash­ing­ton are sim­ply stag­ing shows to ce­ment pop­u­lar sup­port in the two coun­tries for strength­en­ing the US-Ja­pan al­liance, how can there be true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion?

And how can there be a mes­sage that Ja­pan will not re­peat the mis­takes of the past when its cur­rent leader is un­re­pen­tantly try­ing to bury its wartime past by re­vis­ing his­tory?

Un­like those of his pre­de­ces­sors that were will­ing to take an hon­est look at Ja­pan’s wartime wrongs and of­fer heart­felt apolo­gies for them, Abe has con­sis­tently sought to wrig­gle and squirm away from any in­con­ve­nient truths.

He has tried to deny Ja­pan’s war of ag­gres­sion, say­ing the “def­i­ni­tion of in­va­sion is not set in stone”. He has dis­missed the Tokyo Tri­als of Ja­pan’s war crimes as “no more than ex­er­cises in vic­tors’ jus­tice”.

To ex­pect some­one with such dis­torted his­tor­i­cal views to feel re­morse over his coun­try’s past is un­re­al­is­tic.

The two coun­tries’ will­ing­ness to for­give and for­get is not as Daniel Kriten­brink, se­nior di­rec­tor for Asian af­fairs at the US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, said at a news brief­ing, “a pow­er­ful demon­stra­tion of how the two coun­tries can over­come a very painful his­tory to be­come the clos­est of al­lies and friends”.

It is a demon­stra­tion of their mar­riage of con­ve­nience. One that is likely to cre­ate more tur­bu­lence in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion as they seek to pur­sue the point of con­ver­gence in their agen­das.

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