Japan must escape leadership crisis

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Japan must escape leadership crisis


On Dec. 7, 1941, the Tokyo Asahi Shimbun carried a report on U.S.-Japan talks under the headline “U.S.-Japan talks in a critical stage: Is negotiation on main points stalled?” At 6 a.m. the following day, the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters announced suddenly: The Imperial Army, Navy and Air Force Forces entered into a state of war against the United States and British forces in the West Pacific at dawn today, Dec. 8. This is how the so-called Pacific War, which was triggered by the Pearl Harbor attack, broke out. Shigeki Toyama wrote in his 1955 book “The History of Sohwa” that the announcement of the war was a bolt out of the blue, even to the Japanese people.

The declaration of war started with the sentence: The Emperor of Japan, who ascended to the imperial throne that is unique in the world, informs you, the brave and faithful subjects, of the following. But the surprise war declaration completely excluded the Japanese public.

The war took the lives of nearly 5 million Japanese - including 1.14 million army and 440,000 navy soldiers, 1.5 million civilians attached to the military and 1.8 million civilians. On the island of Okinawa, even some girls in their teens sacrificed their lives by jumping into the sea. As a result of the war, however, Japan had to return some of the land gained in the past, rather than gaining an inch of territory.

I could not understand why Japan, which had only one-tenth of the economic power of the United States, provoked a war against it. Only after I read “The Rise and Fall of Imperial Japan” in which author Masamichi Inoki defined the war as a “suicide war,” could I understand the reason. On Aug. 7, 1936, Prime Minister Koki Hirota’s cabinet adopted the “Imperial Diplomacy Guidelines” and decided to strengthen Japan’s military capabilities by benchmarking the Soviet Army and the U.S. Navy. The guideline heralded the tragedy suffered by Japan.

Japanese politics is characterized by the good of the people and the bad leadership of the politicians. At a time when the Japanese and Korean people are united, sharing the pain of the recent earthquake there, Japan’s publication of government-authorized textbooks with descriptions that say that “Dokdo is Japanese territory” is proof that the country is still under bad leadership. Only when Japan finally rids itself of bad leadership can the good of the people, demonstrated during the recent earthquake, move the hearts of people in neighboring countries.

*The writer is a commentator on historical affairs.

By Lee Deok-il
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