Abe speech to indicate Japan's future

2015-04-21 Editor: Si Huan

How ridiculous Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is when he tries to portray himself as peace-loving on one hand and keeps straining ties between Japan and its neighboring countries on the other.

Just one day before he makes speech at the Asian-African Summit, Abe on Tuesday sent a ritual offering to the notorious Yasukuni Shrine where Japanese military dead since Meiji Restoration are enshrined, including the 14 A-class war criminals during World War II.

And in his five-minute presentation in Indonesia, Abe is likely to highlight that Japan, as a peace-loving country, has contributed much to global peace and development in the post-WW II era. He is also likely to focus on the "future"instead of "apologizing"for Japan's war crimes while speaking at the US Congress next week.

The two speeches may tell the world how Abe views Japan's notorious past and whether he wants genuine peace in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. However, no matter what he says, Abe's bold move on Yasukuni Shrine has showed he never truly apologized for the Asian people's sufferings brought by Japanese army during the war past.

Since the Meiji Restoration began in 1868 to restore practical imperial rule, Japan annexed Ryukyu (now Okinawa) Islands, colonized the Korean Peninsula, invaded China and many Southeast Asian countries and waged the Pacific War before being defeated by the anti-fascist Allied forces in 1945.

After the end of World War II, the Japanese Constitution, drafted with the help of the US, stripped the Japanese emperor of his political and military powers and barred Japan from declaring war on any country. The arrangement seemed to suit Japan and its victim countries both. And the Yoshida Doctrine, named after Japan's first postwar prime minister Shigeru Yoshida, which emphasized Japan's economic recovery and reliance on US military protection at the expense of independence in foreign affairs, shaped Japanese foreign policy during the Cold War and beyond.

The policy helped the Japanese economy not only to recover but also to become the world's second-largest economy in the 1960s. By shifting focus from military build-up to economic development, Japan regained the trust of its once-victim neighbors such as China. This, in turn, helped establish China-Japan diplomatic ties in the 1970s.

But after being re-accepted by the international community as a leading economy, Japan started developing strategic ideas, that is, defying the postwar world order to become a military power again. In 1983, Yasuhiro Nakasone, then Japanese prime minister, made the pursuit of "political power"a national strategy. In the 1990s, Japanese politicians agreed on the "political power"strategy and many even advocated a slogan that Japan should develop politically and militarily as a "normal country".

Such nationalist sentiments created a vicious circle in Japan this century, prompting many politicians to mollycoddle right-wing forces and further fan nationalist passions. And Abe appears to be an integral part of this circle, for he has often deviated from the Murayama Statement, an apology issued by former prime minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995 for Japan's wartime atrocities, and former Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kono's 1993 apology over "comfort women".

A year ago, the Abe-led Japanese cabinet eased the principles and guidelines on the transfer of defense equipment, and thus allowed "arms exports if they serve the purpose of contributing to international cooperation and its security interests"— an obvious attempt to violate the 1967 "three principles"on arms exports. In 1976, the three principles were extended to impose a total ban on arms exports by Japan.

The new guidelines for US-Japan defense cooperation, to be released at the end of this month, are another cause for worry, because they could give Japan more freedom in matters of defense and expand the scope of their military cooperation globally.

From a regional invader to a prosperous peacekeeper and important contributor to the world economy, Japan has played different roles in international relations.

When Japan adhered to peaceful development, the whole of East Asia benefited. And when it shows signs to deviate from the peaceful track, it wreaked havoc in the region and beyond.

That is precisely why the world should pay close attention to what Abe says in Indonesia and the US while speaking about Japan's wartime past, and more importantly, keep a close eye on what Abe does. Action always speaks louder than words.

The author Wang Meiping is an associate professor of modern history studies at Tianjin University.

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