No immunity for Japan

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No immunity for Japan

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry paid tribute on Monday at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Japan, becoming the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the historic site devastated by the atomic bomb dropped to end World War II.

Although he came short of apologizing for the act seven decades ago, Kerry laid a wreath and said he was reminded “of the extraordinary complexity of choices in war and of what war does to people, to communities, to countries and to the world.” He hinted that President Barack Obama, who has been campaigning for a world free from nuclear weapons, could be the first incumbent U.S. president to visit the site when he comes to Japan next month for the Group of 7 summit.

But the high-profile visits by senior U.S. officials make countries like Korea, who still live with the bitter memories of Japan’s colonial aggressions, uncomfortable. We fear Japan being painted as a victim rather than the party responsible for a global war. We are sorry that thousands of civilians had to pay the price to end the war, but their sacrifice cannot excuse or forgive Japan for the killings and pain it imposed on its neighboring countries.

With Japan still unpardoned by the countries and people who suffered from its past aggressions, it is too early for a U.S. president to pay a visit to Hiroshima. Japan has not been forgiven because it has failed to sincerely atone for its past. Instead, the current right-wing government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been trying to whitewash and reinterpret controversies like the so-called comfort women and Nanjing Massacre.

Seoul and Tokyo late last year reached a historic agreement to settle the comfort women issue, but Japan has not kept its side of the deal. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Koichi Hagiuda has been claiming that Tokyo won’t go through on its promise to pay 1 billion yen ($9.2 million) to a South Korean fund to compensate victims if the statue commemorating comfort women outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul is not removed, a term that wasn’t stated in the original agreement.

Even if Obama heads to the controversial city, he must make it clear that Japan still has a duty to answer for its past.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 12, Page 30
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