Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Reconciliation With Japan's Neighbors
KURIYAMA Takakazu / Former ambassador of Japan to the United States

February 28, 2006
Reconciliation with its neighbors is not only essential for Japan in order to build a stable security environment, its decency as a nation hinges on it. Unfortunately, Japan's relations with China and Korea, which have soured in recent years, show that this reconciliation is still far beyond reach even today, sixty years since the end of World War Two.

Reconciliation is a difficult process, a process that requires both the assailant/aggressor and the victim to engage with each other over many years. Both parties need to muster courage and make efforts to achieve reconciliation. The aggressor must have the courage to face up to the dark history of the past and strive to translate the contrition for the past into its behavior (foreign and security policy). The victim, on the other hand, needs the courage, however painful it may be, to recognize the difference between past history and the present. The victim further needs to accept the remorse and apology of the assailant and to share the future together.

Thus, reconciliation is a reciprocal process. Needless to say, however, the aggressor needs to take the initiative. Yet, the Japanese people have had little awareness that they were the aggressor. In fact, the lesson they have drawn from the war has been built on the disaster that befell them. This explains why not only among the Chinese and Koreans but more broadly around the world it is perceived that "Japanese have not come to terms with the past."

The statement made by Prime Minister Tomi-ichi Murayama in 1995, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of World War Two, was the very first time Japan expressed in a comprehensive manner the government's recognition regarding this history issue. The statement clearly negated the legitimacy of Japan's colonial rule and aggression, and reaffirmed Japan's commitment to pacifism and democracy taking to heart the lesson of history. The statement Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi delivered on August 15th last year essentially adhered to the Murayama statement but, in addition, emphasized that "Japan's post-war history has indeed been six decades of manifesting its remorse on the war through actions." These two statements by Japanese prime ministers are a response to international criticism that Japan has not owned up to its past. However, I believe it is more important that the younger post-war Japanese appreciate the substance of the statements and their historical background.

Many Japanese who read the prime minister's statements probably would not object to expressing remorse and apologizing for the path Japan took in the first half of the twentieth century as described in the statements. They, however, aspire to win appreciation by the international community that post-war Japan, taking to heart this remorse and apology, has made a clean break with the past and has committed itself steadfastly to peace and democracy. For the reconciliation process to move forward Japan's neighbors would be called upon to respond with magnanimity to this legitimate aspiration of the Japanese people. The greatest obstacle to reconciliation is unilateral and intolerant nationalism. All parties involved in the process need to restrain such nationalism or else prospects for their overcoming the past and sharing the future will never open up.

Before concluding I should like to touch on the Yasukuni shrine issue. I am of the view that the prime minister and everyone else in responsible position in government should refrain from paying respects at the Yasukuni shrine, not because of opposition by China and Korea but because this shrine's views on history (see Note) contradict the Japanese government's position evinced in the prime minister's statements I referred to above. Responsible government officials should desist from acts that may cause an inherently legitimate act of mourning for the war-dead to be construed as an act to glorify the past that should be negated.

Note: It is obvious from the captions accompanying displays in the Yushukan museum at the shrine and publications sold there that the view of history the shrine holds attempts to justify the "Great East Asia War".

The writer is a former ambassador of Japan to the United States.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

栗山尚一 / 元駐米大使

2006年 2月 28日







一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Reconciliation With Japan's Neighbors