Talk is cheap for Japan

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Talk is cheap for Japan

One of the things that Japanese people like is giron, or discussion. It is beyond a simple exchange of opinions and is more of an open argument. They debate over a certain topic. In university classrooms or at study group sessions, giron is a common practice. When it is hard to reach a conclusion, people meet over and over again to close the gap. The Japanese government forms an advisory panel of experts in relevant fields when deciding important policies and has them engage in discussions, which are made public. As a result, it seems like the conclusion is reached through a democratic process, at least on the surface.

A historic discussion is now in progress in Japan, with 16 civilian experts and the grand title of the “Advisory Panel on the History of the 20th century and on Japan’s Role and the World Order in the 21st Century.” They are discussing what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will say in the statement to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II this summer. They have met twice now to discuss Japan’s actions during World War II.

On March 13, acting chair Shinichi Kitaoka, president of International University of Japan, argued that the Pacific War was a “reckless war that had missed the flow of the world and caused great casualties in Asia,” and that “it was wrong to claim that Japan fought for the liberation of Asia.” Another member also said that “it was a war of aggression even for the values of the time, and the panel report cannot state that it was not aggression.” However, the Abe government ignored their opinions and repeated the claim that there was no definition for aggression.

It also made remarks that incapacitate the discussion altogether. Cabinet Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is considered Abe’s mouthpiece, said at a news conference on Feb. 25, “While we respect the opinions from the discussion, the entity that writes the statement is the Prime Minister himself.” He basically said that Abe would make all the decisions although the experts were called to discuss the subject. Some say that the advisory panel was only called to show that he was preparing for the statement carefully. The discussion is nothing but talk.

Koichi Hagiuda, the advisor to the Liberal Democratic Party chairman, is considered a confidant of Abe. He said that there was no need to stick to each word and phrase of the statements from the past, stressing that the keywords from the Murayama Statement from 1995 would not matter. Abe likes to say “pursuit of the future,” but what Japan needs now for the future is not discussion for discussion’s sake. Sincere repentance, accountability and apologies are needed now.

*The author is a Tokyo correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo. JoongAng Ilbo, April 11, Page 26

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