Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Japan should face up to WWII facts

Japan marks the 61st anniversary of the end of World War II today by sending its Prime Minister to the war criminals-honoring Yasukuni Shrine and thus angered many people in the world including its neighbours China and South Korea. From The Australian:
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon has accused Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of showing "complete disrespect to our people" over a visit planned today to a controversial war shrine.

Mr Ban, who is in Australia for bilateral meetings, said he was frustrated and angry at Mr Koizumi's decision to visit the Yasukuni Shrine, which honours Japan's war dead, including 14 Class A war criminals, despite protests from Japan's neighbours.

"It is going to be a complete disrespect for our people and our country," Mr Ban told The Australian in an exclusive interview in Sydney yesterday.

"It's against the wishes and appeals and urgings of the peoples of South Korea and China, and many others."
Australia too, had called the visit disrespectful to the dead from other nations. From The Australian:
"From Australia's point of view we understand the prime minister of Japan wanting to show respect to Japanese soldiers killed in the second world war, whatever the rights and wrongs of the second world war and we (Australia) have very strong views about that history," he (Australia Foreign Minister Downer) said during a photo-opportunity with the South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon.

"Our concern has been the presence of the remains of Class A war criminals also in the Yasakuni shrine and I said to the Japanese prime minister - that's what makes people around the region and around the world feel uncomfortable, not the paying of respect to soldiers who died in the second world war but the fact that included in the shrine are the remains of several Class A war criminals."

"He (Koizumi) told me, he understood that point of view but that in Japan it wasn't possible to separate souls in a way we might understand in our own culture.

"Of course what makes us uncomfortable about this issue, is the presence of the Class A war criminals."
The Japanese Prime Minister has said that his visit to the shrine was to express his condolences to all the war dead but critics see his visit as a failure for Japan to face up to its WWII atrocities. The shrine itself is a symbol of Japanese ignorance. From Reuters:
The shrine, which played a central role in the wartime state religion that helped mobilize the nation to fight in the name of a divine emperor, considers 14 wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as Class A war criminals to be "martyrs".

A museum on the shrine's grounds depicts the Pacific war as one Japan was forced to fight in self-defense and has been criticized for ignoring atrocities committed by Japanese.
Japan should face up to WWII facts and learn from its past mistakes. Stopping the shrine visits in the future will be a good step in that direction. From The Japan Times:
In Japan, the anniversary of the war's end should serve not only as a memorial to the sufferings of the Japanese during the war years but also as a reminder of the sufferings inflicted on other peoples as a result of its wartime behavior. To accomplish this, Japanese leaders must demonstrate greater efforts to learn from historical facts.

It would not be unreasonable to deduce from Mr. Koizumi's repeated visits to Yasukuni a callousness toward the feelings of peoples who suffered at the hands of Japanese militarism. This attitude could just stem from his ignorance of the ideological role that Yasukuni played in mobilizing Japan for modern warfare. As for the remarks on a preemptive capability, they could be attributed to the lack of knowledge of what a real war was, is and would be like. The anniversary should be a day for pondering how best to turn Japan into a true peace-loving nation.

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