Japan must face up to verdict of history

By Sha Zukang Source:Global Times Published: 2015-8-11 0:58:01

Japan and China have maintained peace and learned from each other for the majority of the last two millennia. However in modern times, Japan embarked on the path of militarism and expansionism and launched savage wars of aggression, which brought unprecedented calamities to China, South Korea and other parts of the Asia-Pacific and produced bitter and profound lessons.

In the face of Japanese aggression, Chinese people have risen up and defeated the vicious militarist aggressors. As the main Asian battlefield of the world's anti-fascist war, China played a decisive role in utterly destroying the Japanese aggressors.

After the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45), the Chinese government and people adopted a forgiving attitude toward Japan's militaristic past. Successive China's leaderships have advocated a policy that differentiates Japanese militarists from the general public and war criminals from ordinary soldiers. China also helped millions of Japanese return to their home, showed leniency to and released thousands of Japanese war criminals and raised several thousand Japanese war orphans.

China has never used the "history card" against Japan nor intended to embarrass it with historical issues. Japan's burden of history results from its failure to keep its word on these issues, which has aroused the sharp suspicions and distrust of other Asian countries and international society.

In recent years, Sino-Japanese relations have often been strained and one main reason is that the Japanese side frequently stirs up trouble concerning historical problems. Japanese leaders visited the Yasukuni Shrine where convicted Class-A war criminals in WWII are honored and some even doubted the country's aggression. They tried to deviate from the 1995 statement by then prime minister Tomiichi Murayama and distorted the "comfort women" issue. These have challenged the justice of history and the conscience of humanity and repeatedly hurt the feelings of people in victim countries such as China and South Korea.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the victory of WWII and the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression. At this special time, the attitude that the Japanese government and people take toward its history of aggression and people in victim countries has a bearing on Japan's relations with Asian neighbors. Abe's pending statement on history will be closely observed by victim countries including China and South Korea and also international society. In this regard, there have been differences between media reports. Asahi Shimbun said on Sunday that Abe's statement will not include an "apology" to Asian countries, while NHK reported Monday that the term will be used in the speech. Therefore, a clear and official stance should be made to the public.

A great country and nation has the courage to face up to its history. To forget history is to betray, and to deny a crime is to repeat it. Only by taking history as a mirror can Japan look into the future. Otherwise, its future will be like a tree without roots, which cannot last long.

The Japanese government and people must take the responsibilities for history and comply with the declarations and promises made so far by important statements such as that by Murayama on history. They need to deeply reflect upon the crimes of aggression and imperialism and provide a sincere apology.

Otherwise, Japan will be unlikely to become a "normal country" as it wishes, or to reconcile with its Asian neighbors on historical issues, let alone making contributions to the international community.

As a Chinese saying goes, "It is better for the doer to undo what he has done." Former West German chancellor Willy Brandt's kneeling down at the monument to victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising steered the German nation into the correct path. Japan needs to ponder whether it wants to remain on trial for history or forge ahead with the burden of history relieved.

At the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, Japan is obliged to make clear its choice to victims of the war.

The author is former UN under-secretary-general for Economic and Social Affairs. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Posted in: Viewpoint

blog comments powered by Disqus