Countries still waiting for Abe to clarify his views on history
Updated: 2015-03-30 03:52
By Chen Weihua(China Daily USA)
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been invited to address a joint session of US Congress on April 29, making Abe, widely regarded a right-wing politician, the first Japanese prime minister to speak to the two houses.
The invitation, extended by House Speaker John Boehner last Thursday, said “his address will provide an opportunity for the American people to hear from one of our closest allies about ways we can expand our cooperation on economic and security priorities”.
Missing was any mention of Abe using the opportunity to clarify his highly controversial views on history, even as the United Nations and the world mark the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. Abe's revisionist views on history have angered not only Japan's neighboring countries of China and South and North Korea, but also several other countries in Asia which suffered the brutality of Japanese militarism during WWII.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi urged Japan to face history squarely during a visit to Seoul a week ago, when foreign ministers from China, South Korea and Japan tried to pave the way for a trilateral summit that has been stalled for the last three years due largely to Japan's bid to whitewash WWII history.
“I hope Japan can seize this opportunity and face up to history in order to unload the historical burden and advance toward the future with its neighbors,” Wang told his Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida.
On Sunday, South Korea Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said that Japan will risk “severe damage” to its leadership if it misses important opportunities on the horizon this year, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.
He was referring to Abe's speech before the US Congress and a declaration regarding WWII Abe is expected to release in August.
“There is a consensus in the international community that Japan, as the German leaders did in the past, should take a clear stance on history,” Yun said.
Abe, whose core support includes Japanese right-wing groups, has a record of making controversial statements regarding WWII. He has questioned whether WWII constituted aggression on the part of Japan and he has denied the Japanese military's use of coercion with “comfort women” — women from Korea, China, the Philippines and other Asian nations forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese Imperial Army.
Criticism of Abe's historical views has also been strong in the US. Mainstream newspapers, such as the New York Times and Washington Post, have carried editorials in recent years blasting Abe's whitewashing of WWII atrocities.
Jan Thompson, president of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society, which represents surviving US prisoners of the Japanese, said an address to a joint session of US Congress would be “a unique opportunity to acknowledge Japan's historical responsibilities”, according to a Reuters report a week ago.
Writing to the Veterans' Committees of both houses, Thompson said past statements by Abe rejecting the verdicts of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal that served as the foundation of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty with Japan “trouble us”.
“We want Congress to only extend the invitation to Prime Minister Abe to speak at the podium of Roosevelt and Churchill if they are assured that he will acknowledge that Japan's defeat released the country from the venom of fascism and the inhuman goals of a criminal regime,” Reuters quoted his letter as saying.
Inside the US Congress, Japanese-American Congressman Mike Honda from California has been the most vocal critic of Japanese revisionist views. House Resolution 121, which he introduced and was passed in 2007, asks the Japanese government to apologize to former comfort women and include them in the curriculum of Japanese schools.
No one seems to be sure what Abe will say to the US Congress or in his August declaration on WWII.
His interview with the Washington Post's David Ignatius, published on March 26, already stirred some controversy in China and South Korea when he lightly described comfort women as “victimized by human trafficking" without mentioning the responsibility of the Japanese Imperial Army.
His stance on a sincere apology to countries like China and South Korea has also been vague and hardly satisfies public expectations in the two countries and probably even among some Japanese.
A survey by Japan's Kyodo news agency released on Sunday showed that 54.6 percent of Japanese think Abe, in his August declaration, should express regret and apologize for Japan's colonial rule and aggression in marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII. About 30.5 percent said such sentiments should not be part of the statement.
In his address to the US Congress, Abe may try to please some Americans by talking about the US-Japan security alliance or trade cooperation as evidenced by the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But it seems that he will not get a pass if he does not take the opportunity to clarify well his troubling views on history.
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