Scholars skeptical on Japan apology

Updated: 2015-03-19 10:39

By DONG LESHUO and HUA SHENGDUN in Washington(China Daily USA)

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Scholars skeptical on Japan apology

(From left) Zheng Wang, director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies and associate professor at Seton Hall University; Gil Rozman, former Wilson Center fellow and professor at Princeton University; Ji-Yong Lee, assistant professor of international relations at American University and the C.W. Lim and Korea Foundation professor of Korean Studies; and Tatsushu Arai, fellow of the Center for Peacemaking Practice at George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and associate professor at the School for International Training Graduate Institute, talk about Japan and the Asia Pacific on the 70th Anniversary of the end of the WWII at the Wilson Center on Wednesday. Sheng Yang / for China Daily.

While East Asia awaits Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's statement this summer to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, some scholars in the United States doubt whether he will issue a sincere apology.

At the Wilson Center on Wednesday, Chinese, Japanese and Korean scholars discussed the challenges of reconciliation between Japan and other Asian countries as the anniversary nears.

"We should not hold a high expectation that there will be a message of sincere apology in Abe's statement,"Zheng Wang, an associate professorat the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University, told China Daily.

"Abe actually appointed a 16-member committee to work on the speech," Wang said. "And some of them do think they should apologize. It (the speech) may touch on the issue, but the language will not improve much."

China and South Korea have been paying close attention to whether Abe will uphold Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama's 1995 apology for the "tremendous damage and suffering" Japan caused to people across Asia during the Pacific war.

Wang said a recent public opinion survey conducted by an international organization showed that the main reason some Chinese dislike Japan is the "lack of a sincere apology" on the war.

"My own view is consistent with the majority of the Japanese public, and that says acknowledgement of aggression, apology, remorse should be forthcoming and explicit,"said Tatsushi Arai, a fellowat George Mason University's School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

"Tokyo wants to move beyond historical issues and move on to other things," but "reconciliation in future-oriented relationships is only possible when it goes through history," said Ji-Young Lee, assistant professor at the School of International Service at American University. "The future builds from the past," she added.

"History is like religion for the Chinese,"Wang said.

Lee said "the bar of apology for Koreans is high" too.

Arai believes a "robust platform" should be created in which multiple voices, sources and channels could be heard.

"(The question is) do we want to hear different perspectives even if you don't accept the people who are very shy about talking about the comfort women in Japan?" Arai said.

"That debate cannot be settled so easily," he said. "There appears to be so little context of deep empathy. This is why the discussion has become so important."

Gil Rozman, former Wilson Center fellow, editor-in-chief of The Asan Forum and professor at Princeton University, said 2015 could be a "very difficult year, when retribution looks much more likely than reconciliation".

Wangsaid "attitude is more important than words".

Lee concluded that "going past history is not working".

Rozman believes the main role for the US is to "try to build a foundation for reconciliation, and in that case, the rebalance to Asia should be complemented by a vision for Asia".

"What the US worries about is revisionist thinking in each country become more entrenched," he said.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said on March 15 that if Japanese leaders could face history squarely, China's relations with Japan could improve, according to Xinhua.

"The current difficulties in China-Japan relations relate to the attitude toward history, and it is the responsibility of national leaders to face up to their countries' past," Li said at a press conference after the third session of China's 12th National People's Congress in Beijing on March 15.

"Should Japanese leaders correct their stance on history and maintain it that way, there would be new opportunities for China and Japan to improve their relations," he said.

Yohei Kono, 78, a former deputy prime minister of Japan, said Abe should stand by the World War II apologies, although with "nationalist voices growing louder in recent years, there have been calls from within Abe's governing Liberal Democratic Party to discard the old language", according to The New York Times.

Kono urged that when Abe commemorates the anniversary, he should "repeat past expressions of remorse over Japan's wartime aggression and abuses" to "avoid being accused of revisionism", the report said.

As long as Japan's leaders continue living in the past of the "devastated and discredited empire", they will "struggle to prepare their country for its future", The Washington Post said earlier.

Sheng Yang contributed to the story.

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