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Foreign Policy

Abe Fails to Face History With Denials of Japanese Aggression

May 15 , 2013

Of late, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has spoken and behaved in a most unscrupulous and blatant way by mounting a war chariot in combat fatigues and chanting “Long live His Majesty the Emperor,” as if he had returned to a pre-1945 Japan. On April 23, 2013,

Liu Jiangyong

On April 30, 2013, Kenichiro Sasae, Japan’s ambassador to the United States, was quick to explain away Abe’s statements in a Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post, asserting that “The government of Japan has expressed its feelings of deep remorse and heartfelt apology, and it has expressed feelings of sincere mourning for all World War II victims, at home and abroad.” Nevertheless, what this Japanese ambassador to the US referred to as the “government of Japan” was probably the one under the previous cabinet of Tomiichi Murayama, not at all the one under the present leadership of Shinzo Abe. As Prime Minister Abe himself did not come forward to clarify his erroneous statement, then who can represent the present Japanese government? As I see it, it is still Prime Minister Abe.

Given the worsening relations between Japan and its neighbors, why has Prime Minister Abe said, “The definition of what constitutes aggression has yet to be established …”? This is by no means accidental or a slip of the tongue. While anxious to worship the Yasukuni Shrine, Abe has not done so directly after being elected as Prime Minister. One reason for this is that Abe, as Prime Minister, had found it inadvisable to visit the Yasukuni Shrine following Tommichi Murayam’s statements in 1995. Abe’s remarks cover up his political stance denying Japanese aggression, showing he would stick to his erroneous outlook on history at the expense of Japan’s relationship with China, South Korea and other neighbors. Clearly, Prime Minister Abe is merely reciting the erroneous logic of his right-wing predecessors. Without constant reminders by the international community, Japanese militarism and the rightist outlook on history may lead Japan down an erroneous path.

Shinzo Abe’s remarks are nothing but a sophistry lacking common sense. Putting aside the question of whether or not there is total consensus internationally on the definition of aggression, even according to the definition of aggression by Japan itself, there is ample proof that Japan’s war against China is downright aggression.

In the wake of World War I, with the international community’s goal of preventing future wars, the League of Nations began deliberation on the definition of aggression in early 1920. But Japanese militarism, disregarding the censure of aggression by the international community, brazenly launched an all-out war against China and the Pacific. Committing a serious crime by destroying international peace and humanism, the war ended in Japan’s total defeat.

Following World War II, the United Nations substantiated and expanded the definition of aggression. Article II of the United Nations Charter stipulates “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.” This is consistent with the historical definition of aggression and covers a wider area.

Regrettably however, Japan, anxious to become a permanent member of the UN, failed to adopt a Diet resolution admitting it’s launching of wars of aggression and offering its apology for its actions in World War II. In the absence of a national, unified will constraining relevant remarks by Japanese Prime Ministers and with the changing Japanese political landscape, new Japanese leaders would endeavor to revise the political position of their predecessors. One fundamental reason lies in the Japanese right-wing forces that have always tried to prevent the Diet from passing relevant resolutions. Now, right-wing conservative forces are in control of the majority seats of the Japanese House of Representatives in the election held at the end of 2012 and are expected to further gain control of the House of Councilors in the July 2013 elections. The right-wing conservative forces in Japanese politics face the danger of further pursuing the militant politics.

It was against the above-mentioned background that Shinzo Abe’s recent remarks concerning the definition of aggression and the revision of Japan’s constitution were made. Given a lack of remorse, it appears history will repeat itself. The international community, especially regional countries in Asia, must call for continued vigilance and promote peaceful development for all countries and peoples of the world.

Liu Jiangyong is the Vice President of the Research Institute of Contemporary International Relations at Qinghua University.

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