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

An Appeal for a Reconciliation with Our Asian Neighbors and for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons
ONUMA Yasukaki  / Distinguished Professor, Meiji University

September 30, 2010
Prime Minister Kan Naoto won the vote for the Democratic Party leadership and thus maintained his post as prime minister. He faces a mountain of issues ranging from counteracting the rising yen and implementing an economic stimulus to creating jobs and reconstructing government finances. However, apart from these economic, industrial and social policies, there is another task that must be tackled by a Democratic Party-led government - the task of seeking reconciliation with Asian countries that suffered at the hands of Japan during World War II and under its colonial rule.

Past governments led by the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) were unable to take on this weighty task. It is symbolic that the only international recognition Japan gained on this issue were for comments admitting that Japan's wartime behavior was an act of aggression made by former Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro, who headed a non-LDP coalition government at the time, and by former Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi of the Socialist Party.

U.S. President Barack Obama is advocating nuclear disarmament, and U.S. Ambassador to Japan John Roos attended the Peace Memorial Ceremony in Hiroshima this year. Hopes are high for President Obama to visit Hiroshima and issue an appeal for nuclear disarmament. The South Korean government has been seeking a visit by the Emperor during 2010, which marks the centenary of Japan's annexation of the Korean Peninsula. And 2011 marks the 80th anniversary of the Manchurian Incident, as well as the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. Japan should seize this opportunity to finish its long overdue task of seeking genuine reconciliation with Asian countries and together create a new era. This is a major mission that the Democratic Party government must, and can, fulfill. These issues are laden with various emotions and the loose ends have become intricately intertwined. It would take utmost care and proper procedures to straighten out the loose ends.

First, I propose that the Emperor and Empress visit China and South Korea to express their deep feelings of condolences for all the victims of Japan's colonial rule and wartime aggressions since the Manchurian Incident. They should then pay a visit to Pearl Harbor to mourn all who lost their lives in the Pacific War.

Subsequent to these visits, Prime Minister Kan should invite U.S. President Obama, Chinese General Secretary Hu Jintao and South Korean President Lee Myun-bak – and other leaders from Southeast Asia and Australia, if possible – to Hiroshima for a joint ceremony in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb. Inviting leaders of countries that suffered from Japan's wartime actions and colonial rule to Hiroshima and asking them to join the Japanese Prime Minister in mourning atomic bomb victims would symbolize a reconciliation for events that took place during World War II and Japan's colonial rule. This joint mourning would tacitly send out Hiroshima's universal message: "Let all the souls here rest in peace, for we shall not repeat the evil," and would thus serve as an ultimate gesture in appealing for the elimination of nuclear weapons to all mankind.

Drastic policies such as these will come under various criticism, opposition and calls for caution. These may include opinions against using the emperor for political ends and conducting a "diplomacy of apologies," or criticism that it would be a foolish gesture that would only serve to "wake up a sleeping child."

However, I feel it was rather the past governments that had used the emperor for political purposes by not allowing him to express his condolences, not only for the Japanese war dead but also for foreign victims of war, as he was likely to have wanted to. My proposal of having the Emperor express his condolences is intended to right that wrong. Such an expression would be significant as an act of mourning the dead, rather than seeking expressing apologies. And the Emperor and Empress, not the Prime Minister – are the only figures in Japan who can bring deep integrity to such an act. They should visit Pearl Harbor before President Obama visits Hiroshima, and should express their condolences in China before visiting Pearl Harbor. That should be the proper order of things.

I expect the proposed acts as described above will come under much fire from the Japanese and foreign media, war victims, surviving families and Non-Governmental Organizations and others. I hope that anyone who agrees with this proposal – from victims and surviving families to NGOs, the media and citizens – would stand up in support to persuade the opposition, together with the governments of each country. Such an action would be a valuable effort in itself, which would unite governments and citizens in carrying out a public responsibility.

The writer is Distinguished Professor of International Law at Meiji University.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

大沼 保昭 / 明治大学特任教授

2010年 9月 30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) > An Appeal for a Reconciliation with Our Asian Neighbors and for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons