The Asahi Shimbun, August 16, 2013
EDITORIAL: Abe should not look away from Japan's history of aggression

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe eschewed visiting Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, the 68th anniversary of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II.

Japan’s relations with China and South Korea remain chilly over problems concerning the Senkaku Islands, the Takeshima islets and perceptions of history. A visit to the war-related shrine at this juncture would put off the improvement of relations even further.

Thus, the decision not to visit the shrine was a realistic one.

How is the prime minister trying to face up to the past? Not only China and South Korea but also the United States and European countries are keeping a close watch. Visits to Yasukuni Shrine are not the only problem. Behind their misgivings is Abe’s comment earlier this year: “The definition of aggression has yet to be established,” which can be construed as denial of Japan’s war responsibility.

A wrong move could cause Japan to become isolated in the international community. The prime minister is urged to take this point to heart.

In that sense, there is something we find disturbing.

While Abe delivered a speech at the government-sponsored memorial service for the war dead on Aug. 15, the address made no reference to reflection on Japan’s responsibility for inflicting damage on Asian nations or any expression of condolences.

Starting with Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa in 1993, successive Japanese leaders have mentioned the wartime devastation inflicted on Asian countries by Japan in their speeches for the annual ceremony.

In 2007, during Abe’s first tenure as prime minister, he also stated: “(Japan) caused considerable damage and suffering to the people of Asian countries. … I offer deep remorse and express my heartfelt condolences to those who were killed.”

This time, “a pledge not to make war” that had been expressed in the past was not mentioned, either.

Aides to the prime minister say the memorial address reflects his intention that the ceremony is for the war dead, and that he mentioned consideration toward Asian nations in his responses to questions in the Diet.

But such an expedient response is unacceptable. The ceremony also serves as an occasion to show Japan’s stance toward the war to the world. With the absence of wording about Japan’s responsibility for causing damage, Abe's speech could give the impression that Japan lacks consideration for the people of Asia.

Even though the prime minister declined to visit Yasukuni, wasn’t he sending a message to the opposite effect?

What we find disturbing is the fact that the words that were not mentioned in Abe’s speech overlap with Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's 1995 statement that Japan “through its colonial rule and aggression, caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.”

For a long time, Abe has shown an inclination toward re-examining the Murayama statement. If his memorial address reflects such intentions, there is no way we can accept it.

Although the prime minister refrained from visiting Yasukuni Shrine, some members of his Cabinet, as well as a group of many lawmakers, visited the shrine.

Without looking away from history, Japan needs to use its imagination to understand the pain of other countries. Such an attitude is what Japanese politicians need now more than ever.

by kiyoshimat | 2013-08-21 08:03 | 英字新聞

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