JAPAN’S ARMY WAS RUTHLESS in its colonization of Korea and invasion and occupation of other Asian nations during World War II. Its leaders in recent years have apologized for the depredations, yet some onetime enemies seem to believe nothing will do but for the prime minister to commit hara-kiri on the Imperial Palace grounds. Enough already.
Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi became the latest leader to express sorrow this week, visiting a tomb for the unknown war dead on the 60th anniversary of Japan’s unconditional surrender and announcing his “deep remorse and heartfelt apology” for the nation’s actions. Koizumi pointedly avoided visiting the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which commemorates Class-A war criminals (those convicted of particularly egregious offenses) among its dead. That was wise; previous visits by Koizumi and others have brought blasts from China and South and North Korea. There’s no sense in waving the red flag before the bulls.
China, which has executed tens of thousands of its intellectuals, peasants, shopkeepers and students since the communists won the civil war in 1949, is especially adept at diverting its citizens’ attention from domestic problems by denouncing Japan. This year the government did little while protesters attacked the Japanese Embassy and Japanese businesses in Beijing to protest the whitewashing of World War II aggression in some new Japanese textbooks. Beijing has also blocked Japan’s attempt to gain a deserved seat on an expanded U.N. Security Council, as China vies to become the most powerful nation on the Asian block.
No one can confuse Japan of Imperial Army days with today’s successful democracy. It’s true that Tokyo could do more, especially in ensuring the truth of its textbooks, which periodically are rewritten and somehow leave out such salient occurrences as the Nanking massacre and the forced prostitution of women from invaded nations. But China omits inconvenient facts from its own texts, and even warts-and-all accounts in Japanese texts would not end all criticism. Japan needs to be honest with its own citizens for the nation’s sake, not to try to placate implacable foreign governments.
Koizumi’s apology was needed and should be sufficient.