Stop turning back the clockWe were curious to see what Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would say at a summit marking the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference in Jakarta yesterday. In a speech at the Asian?African Conference aimed at promoting economic and cultural cooperation among 31 member nations and opposing colonialism or neocolonialism by any nation, Abe shied away from using words such as “colonial rule and aggression” or “apology” while expressing “feelings of deep remorse” over World War II.
After underscoring only two of the ten principles adopted at the 1995 Bandung Conference - no infringement on the sovereignty and political independence of any country by using armed forces and the settlement of international disputes through peaceful means - Abe pledged to keep those principles with “feelings of deep remorse over the past war.” We are totally disappointed at his address at this significant international conference.
At the same podium ten years ago, former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi used remarkable expressions such as “deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology” and repeated them in a monumental statement on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in 2005. He said, “Japan squarely faces these facts of history in a spirit of humility” and “with feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology” as his predecessor Tomiichi Murayama said in a statement a decade earlier. It is utterly regrettable that Abe’s perception of history has reverted to a stubborn, right wing past.
Abe’s speech in Jakarta attracted our attention as it serves as a dress rehearsal of what he may say in his speech at a joint session of the U.S. Congress on April 29 and the 70th anniversary of the end of the war on August 15. If he resorts to ambiguous wording about Japan’s aggressions in those two addresses without expressing sincere regrets, it will critically hurt relations between Japan and Korea and all across East Asia. The United States’ initiative to establish a trilateral cooperation system based on the security alliance of Seoul, Washington and Tokyo will also face a serious stumbling block.
There is no future without the past. If Abe has any intention of closing a tragic chapter of history and march towards a prosperous future, he must squarely face historical facts, frankly accept them and sincerely apologize. U.S. politicians and journalists also are raising their voices calling for Abe’s admittance of Japan’s misdeeds in the past. We urge Abe to stop his foolish and reckless move to turn back the clock of history.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 23, Page 34