Abe needs to rec­og­nize uni­ver­sal val­ues and con­front Ja­pan’s past

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

As the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of World War II draws closer, in­ter­na­tional pres­sure is mount­ing on Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe over his stance on the coun­try’s wartime wrong­do­ings. This right­ful pres­sure should be kept up un­til he comes to his senses and does what he ought to do.

This past week saw a flurry of events re­gard­ing Abe’s plan to is­sue a state­ment com­mem­o­rat­ing Ja­pan’s Aug. 15, 1945, sur­ren­der that ended the war.

In Seoul, a group of 524 in­tel­lec­tu­als from Korea, Ja­pan and Western coun­tries — in­clud­ing his­to­ri­ans, pro­fes­sors and writ­ers — is­sued a joint state­ment, which reaf­firmed the il­le­git­i­macy of Ja­pan’s an­nex­a­tion of Korea and urged Tokyo to con­front squarely its war- time atroc­i­ties like the op­er­a­tion of mil­i­tary sex­ual slav­ery.

The state­ment was in line with a sim­i­lar state­ment is­sued by Korean and Ja­panese in­tel­lec­tu­als in 2010 to mark the 100th an­niver­sary of Ja­pan’s an­nex­a­tion of Korea. This time, 37 peo­ple from third coun­tries like the U.S., UK, Ger­many, Switzer­land and Aus­tralia joined forces.

They in­cluded U.S. lin­guist Noam Chom­sky, pro­fes­sor Bruce Cum­mings of the Univer­sity of Chicago, his­to­rian Alexis Dud­den of Con­necti­cut Univer­sity and Wolf­gang Seifert, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Hei­del­berg.

The state­ment urged Abe to up­hold state­ments his pre­de­ces­sors made about his­tor­i­cal is­sues and ad­mit that Ja­pan’s ag­gres­sion and colo­nial rule of its Asian neigh­bors caused tremen­dous dam­age and pain to them.

The is­sue of Ja­pan’s wartime past has also caught the at­ten­tion of U.S. politi­cians in Washington, on the oc­ca­sion of the eighth an­niver­sary Tues­day of a land­mark House res­o­lu­tion urg­ing Ja­pan to fully ac­knowl­edge and take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for its sex­ual en­slave­ment of women dur­ing the war.

Rep. Mike Honda (Demo­crat, Cal­i­for­nia), who au­thored the 2007 res­o­lu­tion, said that Abe has the his­toric op­por­tu­nity to take lead­er­ship, do some­thing and say, “You are right. We were wrong. We apol­o­gize.”

“Prime Min­is­ter Abe has to learn that to be a good leader in a demo­cratic coun­try, you have to ac­cept his­tor­i­cal re­spon­si­bil­ity. You have to do the hard things,” he said.

Also in the U.S. cap­i­tal, House Demo­cratic leader Nancy Pelosi, speak­ing with the vis­it­ing leader of the South Korean rul­ing party, Rep. Kim Moo-sung, called on Abe to make “a clearer state­ment” on the wartime sex­ual slav­ery, ac­cord­ing to Kim’s aides.

Abe is fac­ing in­creas­ing pres­sure against his re­vi­sion­ist and right­ist poli­cies do­mes­ti­cally as well. His pop­u­lar­ity hit a record-low 35 per­cent last week in the wake of the leg­is­la­tion of con­tro­ver­sial se­cu­rity bills that would ex­pand the role of the Ja­panese mil­i­tary. The group of in­tel­lec­tu­als who signed up for the joint state­ment is­sued in Seoul in­cluded 105 peo­ple from Ja­pan.

Abe seems ig­no­rant of this do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional sen­ti­ment. Most re­cently, he said he agreed with the view of a com­mit­tee of the Lib­eral Demo­cratic Party which in­sisted that there had been no co­er­cion in the mil­i­tary sex­ual slav­ery and that the 1993 Kono State­ment be re­tracted.

Ac­cord­ing to a Yon­hap News dis­patch from Washington, Honda re­called that Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel had told Abe dur­ing her visit to Tokyo: “You know, we faced our past and we made our apolo­gies. In fact, I think we even have a law in Ger­many that if you say that the death camps did not ex­ist, you would be fined for the vi­o­la­tion of a law there. That’s how se­ri­ous they were.”

In two weeks’ time, the world will see how se­ri­ous Abe is about fac­ing Ja­pan’s past, which is not an is­sue lim­ited only to Ja­pan’s re­la­tions with ei­ther Korea or China but a mat­ter of uni­ver­sal val­ues. This is an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished by The Korea Her­ald on Aug. 1.

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