Sunday, April 10, 2005

Rich, Powerful but Unrepentant - A Vexing Japan

The Chinese showed their outrage at the very thought of a Japan, unapologetic about its barbaric acts of genocide and savage war crimes against the Chinese (and other Asian people) during WWII, being considered for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council (UNSC). They conducted massive protests in Beijing and variosu Chinese cities.

The protestors grew violent and indiscriminately harassed the Japanese Embassy in Beijing, while vandalising other Japanese establishments. Other Chinese cities saw the same emotional outbursts. What may have aggravated the Chinese (and Korean) anti-Japan emotions has not been only the evil cruelty of WWII, but Japan's unrepentance shown in its attempt to revise its barbaric and heinous past.

The Japanese government's mantra of not being able to interfere with the publication of revisionist books on Japan's wartime history or approval of these books for use by its Education Ministry is unsupportable when viewed in stark contrast to Germany's policy of legislating anything Nazi, including even the denial of the Holocaust, as illegal. The Japanese behaviour has been diametrically opposite to its WWII Axis partner, further emphasised when its prime minister, Junichiro Koizuma even had the insensitive audacity to visit the Yasukuni shrines to pay respect to Japanese war criminals, those very people who had perpetrate savage atrocities on the civilian citizens of Japan's neighbours.

Unfortunately, the thing about Chinese, and indeed other East Asian nationalities, has been their incorrect belief that violent or vociferous acts, like the ones perpetrated by the Malaysian so-called Reformasi movement inspired by former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in September 1998, would make their targets take notice and succumb. The terrible side effect of violent demonstrations is that these would be viewed by the rest of world as hooliganism at best, or state-instigated or personality-instigated hooliganism under more critical or cynical assessments. Thus, violent protests may well end up being counter-productive.

They could achieved better results if they had demonstrated peacefully and in dignified silence, with sensible placards or posters of Japanese WWII acts of atrocities. They could emphasise their deep revulsion with similar massive protests, regularly and unrelentingly but all conducted with solemn restrain and dignity.

Anger or outrage is best served cold.

If the aim of their campaign is to deny the seemingly unrepentant Japanese a seat in the UNSC, then they should conduct their activities more meaningfully, like writing to governments, especially to those countries that would have a say in the selection of new members for the proposed expanded UNSC, and powerful lobby groups around the world and especially the media.

If the Chinese intends to be a major voice in the international community, they must play the game of the West. Whether the East likes it or not, it is the West that sets the benchmark for what is considered acceptable behaviour. Japan recognises that and has been singing along with the western tune in its decade long bid for a seat in the UNSC. In typical Japanese fashion, as it had done with the International Whaling Commission, Japan has also advertised a little sweetener (bribe) for potential supporters.

Actually I see one easy solution to all this brouhaha, but will a recalcitrant Japan participate?

Japan needs only to extend a full apology to its former victims!

Asia Times Online China’s quandary over Japan’s UN bid
Previous Ktemoc Konsiders posting: Japan Unfit for World Leadership
BolehTalk posting Japan Must Look to Germany’s Example


  1. Indeed, an apology is owed to the victims. But a full apology would mean billions of dollars to the victims, investigations into the imperial family and full accountability of officers now either dead or in their prime... an overhaul of social system in which the emperor and his family will no longer be seen significant in the eyes of Japan, a loss of prestige within the region amongst the asian tigers. Can u think of other repercussions?

  2. I believe Japan has been using the argument that the issue of compensation was settled in The Treaty of San Francisco in 1952. Furthermore, her courts refused to entertain individual claims asserting that the State of individuals should make the claim, knowing full well that the Treaty of San Francisco exempted Japan from the issue of compensation for wartime atrocities and losses.

    The Treaty, which exempted Japan from most compensation claims, was ironically a creation of John Foster Dulles, US Secretary of State who was most condemning of Japan at the outbreak of war.

    Dulles witnessing how the unfair and unequal Treaty of Versailles crippled Germany economically after WW I, was worried that a post WWII Japan would be also similarly crippled economically through such claims.

    Japan was vital to the US strategic plan to contain the Communist Bloc in the then emerging Cold War. A crippled Japan was disastrous to US plans.

    5 countries refused to sign - Korea, China, India, USSR and Holland, the last because of her enormous losses in Indonesia and to some extent the sufferings of her citizens there. Fearful that the Dutch example might lead the other European countries not to sign the Treaty the US organized a secret deal between Holland and Japan, exempting Holland from any barring to future compensation claims if she signed up. She eventally did.

    So it was the Cold War and the consequential US need for her that had allowed Jaopan to escape her responsibility for her wartime brutalities and savage atrocities largely unscathed.

    I don't believe that today countries like Korea and China are so much interested in compensation per se as the need for Japan to acknowledge her past evil deeds so that she would never again recommit them. They want formal closure with an apology from Japan, who has until now refused to extend an official apology, hiding behind the "personal" apologies by certain Japanese leaders as being adequate.

    Extreme rightwing parties continue to exist in Japan, demonstrated by the PM being politically 'forced' to visit the Yakusuni shrine where war criminals are revered. This sort of stuff, worshipping evil military men who perpetrated atrocities on Koreans, Chinese and other Asians, would not be allowed to happen in Germany, where even denial of the Holocaust is a crime. naziism is illegal in Germany while in Japan, war criminals are worshipped.

    The activities and emergence of these Japanese rightwing factions are very worrying to many of her Asian neighbours who had suffered tremendously from her wartime atrocities.

    As for the Emperor, he has already been de-mythologised by MacArthur, so there won't and can't be any further deterioration in his status. In fact, if the Japanese Emperor were to make a formal apology tomorrow to Korea and China, his status would immediately be elevated to amazing level of respect by the Asian countries. The only drawback would be he could be assassinated by Japanese right wing elements.

  3. Thanks for the insightful reply.