Mistaken perspectives on Japan issues
An editorial published last week, “Ultra-rightists in Tokyo,” argued that territorial disputes with Japan, as well as Japanese responsibility for World War II atrocities, ought to preclude bilateral cooperation on today’s most vital issues.
Such perspectives are mistaken and potentially dangerous.
Before readers accuse me of being an apologist for Imperial Japan, know that I am well aware of the chilling ways in which Japanese colonialism affected scores of Koreans, Chinese, and Southeast Asians. Such scars heal but they do not disappear, and I understand and respect the delicate nature of these issues.
Contrary to the editorial’s claims, Japan has expressed genuine regret for its transgressions. One need look no further than a 1995 statement by Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichi, in which he used the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the war’s end to offer Japan’s apologies. Japan’s actions, he said, “caused tremendous damage and suffering to the people of many countries, particularly to those of Asian nations.” In light of these “irrefutable facts of history,” the prime minister offered his “feelings of deep remorse” and “heartfelt apology.” This statement has been recognized and upheld by subsequent administrations.
Today South Korea faces a new world that requires fresh considerations. Kim
Jong-un’s ruling style remains a mystery, and many suspect that North Korea is preparing for a third nuclear test. China continues to grow economically and militarily, demonstrating more international clout each year. At the same time, Japan and South Korea enjoy record trade and have expressed interest in intelligence sharing and military logistics support. Both countries have recently strengthened their relations with India, and of course, both rely on the U.S. security umbrella.
As East Asia’s geopolitical situation becomes ever more complex, South Korea would do well to draw closer to Japan, an enemy of the past but a potentially strong and strategic partner of the future.
Grand Rapids, Mich., U.S.