My blog post last week, “Revisiting Japan’s Conduct in the Pacific War,” received a lot of attention. Many people visited the blog all throughout the week. As you’ll recall, the post was prompted by an op-ed in theWashington Post by the ChineseAmbassador to the U.S.
This morning, the Post Editorial Page published a response entitled, “China’s anti-Japan Campaign,” by Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s ambassador in Washington. Mr. Sasae basically dismissed the Chinese article as part of an anti-Japanese propaganda campaign. He argues that it is China, not Japan, that threatens the future peace of Asia today.
I found a number of interesting points in Mr. Sasae’s column. This is how he describes the Yasukuni Shrine:
“a place where the souls of those who sacrificed their lives for the country…have been enshrined. Japanese people visit the shrine to pray for the souls of the war dead—not to glorify war or honor or justify a small number (14) of Class A war criminals.”
This assertion is mostly correct as far as it goes. Honoring war dead as a group is done throughout the world. But it is not necessarily the Shinto shrine but the accompanying museum that sets Asian teeth on edge. Presenting over a dozen Class A war criminals as national heroes is offensive to many of the nations victimized by Japan’s aggression. What would the world think if Germany enshrined Hitler, Goering, Himmler and Admiral Donitz as war gods? Even if the shrine honored all the other German war dead, including these evil men would be an affront to humanity. Men who ordered wholesale atrocities should be roundly condemned, not honored.
About the war in general, Mr. Sasae reports that, “
“The government of Japan has repeatedly expressed deep remorse and heartfelt apologies regarding the war. So did the prime minister after his recent visit to Yasukuni; he said that ‘Japan must never wage war again’ based on ‘the severe remorse for the past.’”
Japan has apologized for the war in general. However, many of the captives enslaved by Japan had to fight in court for decades to receive an apology and obtain any compensation for their ordeal. The case of the over 200,000 “comfort women” who were sex slaves for the Japanese armed forces is a case in point. In last week’s post, I listed several excellent references on this subject. Half a century elapsed before Japan finally admitted that the “comfort stations” were in fact run by the army. An apology was finally issued. Many politicians still assert that the women became prostitutes voluntarily and were adequately compensated by client fees at the time. Just Google “comfort women,” and you’ll receive a wealth of information refuting these allegations.
Mr. Sasae’s statement that China is currently much more of a threat than Japan to dominate does resonate. He bemoans,
“…China’s unparalleled military buildup and its use of military and mercantile coercion against neighboring states. The most recent example of this is Beijing’s unilateral declaration of an air defense identification zone. China has escalated the intrusion of government vessels into the territorial sea of the waters around the Senkaku Islands and in waters claimed by the Philippines.”
Considering the situation in Asia today, Mr. Sasae may be right here. Japan has remained a peaceful nation for over 50 years since World War II. But the acts of Japan’s armed forces during the Pacific War were unquestionably horrific. Their victims may someday be willing to forgive them, but these crimes must never be forgotten.