[EDITORIALS]When will Japan ever learn?On Nov. 21, President Hu Jintao of China strongly criticized Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine by saying, “Paying homage to the Yasukuni shrine by the Japanese leader is a political obstacle in China-Japan relations.” The remarks by Mr. Hu once again reminds us that Japan’s perception of history, its distortion of the past and the emotional residue of the victims as a result are all pending issues in the Northeast Asia region. Especially, it is worth noting that the remarks by the Chinese leader took place in Chile, which is halfway across the globe from Northeast Asia, and also in a place where the world was discussing cooperation and prosperity in a larger framework.
Asian countries that experienced the assault of Japanese imperialism and mass slaughter during World War II continue to urge Japan to apologize and atone for its sins. But Japan continues to be adamant about this and instead denies that comfort women existed, or that the massacre at Nanjing occurred. Recently, ultra-right wing politicians in Japan have taken the spotlight and the prime minister continues to pay homage at the Yasukuni Shrine, which houses memorial tablets of first-class war criminals from World War II. Mr. Koizumi said, “I am paying homage to express my condolences to the people who went to war against their wishes and to pledge never to go to war again.” But this is political chicanery. As pointed out before, if he means what he said, then the first-class criminals and the victims of the war should be separated so that there won’t be any controversy over the issue. It is only right that the Japanese government should make separate memorials for war criminals and the war dead.
The debate over past history is holding down the dynamic spirit of Northeast Asia. If they want a prosperous future and coexistence with other Asian countries, then Mr. Koizumi and the right wing politicians should break their historical shackles.
The same goes for China. Instead of raising the issue of the distortion of history by Japan, China must avoid “great empire” chauvanism. China must reject the temptation to distort history, which may cause friction with other nations. Distorting history is like narcotics; it can temporarily give one fiery excitement; but in the long term, it will eat up the spirit of common prosperity of Northeast Asia. Asian leaders, take note.