Ja­pan must be care­ful in re­la­tions with its neigh­bors

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe de­liv­ered a speech yesterday, on the eve of the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of the Pa­cific War ( ). Abe ex­pressed “pro­found grief” for all who per­ished in World War II and ad­mit­ted that Ja­pan in­flicted “im­mea­sur­able dam­age and suf­fer­ing” on in­no­cent peo­ple dur­ing the war and apol­o­gized. The prime min­is­ter also said that fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of Ja­panese should not have to con­tinue apol­o­giz­ing. Ja­pan marks VJ Day, which is eu­phemisti­cally called the day the Pa­cific War ended. The Ja­panese Em­pire started the Pa­cific War, which was of­fi­cially de­clared as the Great East Asian War, though af­ter­ward it be­came pop­u­larly called the Sec­ond World War.

Known as a re­vi­sion­ist hawk, Abe ex­pressed the plat­i­tude of “deep re­morse” for Ja­pan’s role in World War II but no apol­ogy like Prime Min­is­ter Tomi­ichi Mu­rayama who first of­fered it on the 50th an­niver­sary in 1995. Prime Min­is­ter Ju­nichiro Koizumi, Abe’s men­tor, did the same on the 60th an­niver­sary in 2005. Is it so dif­fi­cult for Abe to fol­low suit?

Koizumi is ul­tra­na­tion­al­is­tic. But he knows it was wrong for Ja­pan to an­nex Korea in 1910, to start ag­gres­sion against China by in­sti­gat­ing the Muk­den In­ci­dent on Nov. 18, 1931, and to at­tack Pearl Har­bor to be­gin the Great East Asian War on Dec. 8, 1941. He fol­lowed Mu­rayama in of­fer­ing an apol­ogy. As Koizumi’s pro­tege, Abe is an ul­tra­na­tion­al­ist who be­lieves Ja­pan was forced by the United States to join with Hitler’s Nazi Ger­many and Mus­solini’s fas­cist Italy to fight the Sec­ond World War. He doesn’t be­lieve the Rape of Nank­ing took place be­fore the end of 1937 with an es­ti­mated 200,000 non­com­bat­ants, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, mas­sa­cred. Nor does he ad­mit that the Im­pe­rial Army drafted thou­sands of “com­fort women.” It’s dif­fi­cult for him to apol­o­gize, of course. It ex­plains why he ex­pressed “deep re­morse” but didn’t apol­o­gize when he spoke be­fore the U.S. Congress last April.

That is enough to sat­isfy Un­cle Sam, who needs Abe to help con­tain the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China. Bei­jing and Seoul will be more than dis­pleased, how­ever. South Korea, col­o­nized by Ja­pan for 35 years un­til the end of the Great East Asian War, may just raise hell, but the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic is ex­pected to can­cel a planned meet­ing be­tween Xi Jin­ping and Abe in Bei­jing in Septem­ber.

Ac­cord­ing to Cheng Guop­ing, Bei­jing’s deputy min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs, Xi has al­ready of­fi­cially in­vited Abe to take part in a se­ries of events to mark the 70th an­niver­sary of vic­tory in China’s War of Re­sis­tance, which will start on Sept. 3. Ja­pan pre­sented its in­stru­ment of sur­ren­der to Gen­eral Dou­glas A. MacArthur aboard the USS Mis­souri on that day 70 years ago to of­fi­cially end the Pa­cific War. The Re­pub­lic of China marks it as Armed Forces Day.

Abe cer­tainly wants to meet and talk with Xi, though he may not like at­tend­ing all of those events. Ja­pan badly needs to mend fences with the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic of China. More­over, another Abe-Xi meet­ing will boost Abe’s pop­u­lar­ity, which dipped fol­low­ing the adop­tion of two acts that en­abled Ja­pan to ex­er­cise its right of col­lec­tive se­cu­rity un­der the U.S.-Ja­pan Se­cu­rity Treaty. The acts per­mit Ja­pan’s Self-De­fense Forces to help fight for the Amer­i­can forces when they are un­der at­tack by the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army. Abe is now weigh­ing the pros and cons of at­tend­ing Bei­jing’s VJ cel­e­bra­tion on Nov. 3, when Xi will wit­ness the largest-ever mil­i­tary pa­rade at Tianan­men Square.

At any rate, Ja­pan can’t af­ford to ir­ri­tate ei­ther South Korea or the Peo­ple’s Re­pub­lic. Abe had of­fered an apol­ogy for what Ja­pan did dur­ing those far-off days of the Sec­ond World War in his speech. Yet, he also of­fered de­fi­ant sug­ges­tions of no apolo­gies for the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of Ja­panese. It will be up to Ja­pan’s neigh­bor to de­cide if this is a “glass half full” speech or a “glass half empty” one.

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