[EDITORIALS]Reopening old woundsPrime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan has appointed ultra-rightists to key posts in his cabinet. In particular, Mr. Koizumi appointed Aso Daro to be Japan’s next foreign minister, its representative in international relations. He created a stir once by making the absurd remark that “the adoption of Japanese family names by Koreans during the Japanese occupation was not forced, but was implemented voluntarily by the Korean people.” That gives the impression that the foreign ministry will be a government branch that engages in the beautification of Japan’s history of militarism and advocates it with sophistry.
Although the cabinet shuffle is a Japanese domestic political issue, the cabinet appointments are disappointing because Japan’s neighbors have reacted violently to the country’s distortion of history and politicians’ visits to the Yasukuni Shrine. They have become factors that threaten peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia. We have to assume that they are digging into old wounds to aggravate them.
It is true, of course, that there is a lot of criticism in Japan about Mr. Koizumi’s appointments. The majority of the Japanese public respects the spirit and values of their peace constitution and want to overcome the unfortunate history together with neighboring countries. It was a minority faction that advocated the war that seized power during Japan’s militaristic era, and it brought Japan and her neighbors enormous war damage. Recalling that history, we have to label the cabinet appointments a regressive, anti-historical act.
Such behavior by Japan threatens the peace in Northeast Asia and the whole world. It is likely that during the term of this cabinet, Japan’s peace constitution will be reduced to one in name only and the Self- Defense Forces of Japan will be converted into a regular army. Taking this as an excuse, China will pursue military hegemony. Northeast Asia is likely to be a battleground between China and Japan. More immediately, Japan might be more rigid and uncooperative in the next round of six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear weapons development program and it may openly neglect its neighbors while strengthening its alliance with the United States.
In Korea, if we continue to shout anti-American slogans without thinking, or advocating inter-Korean cooperation above all, we will not be able to solve this complicated diplomatic problem. Our Ministry of Foreign Affairs will have to work hard to cope.