Country Report: Japan (February 2015)
South Korea preoccupied Japanese media more than China, recognized as a threat, North Korea, posing an ever greater threat, and Russia, which was transfixing the media elsewhere. Conservatives were obsessed with the “comfort women” issue and linked progressive dishonor of Japan with South Korean disrespect and campaigns in the United States and elsewhere to sully Japan’s name. The realist possibilities in Southeast Asia and India, much welcomed of late, had a decidedly secondary place. Yet, there was a sobering trend as the voices of realists, anticipating more trouble in the years of the seventieth and fiftieth anniversaries, appealed for more pragmatism in 2015.
The obsession on the right was not external threats but “hate speech” directed at Japan from the Japanese media. In a January 29 Sankei Shimbun article, editorials in Tokyo Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, and Mainichi Shimbun, which call for retention of the Murayama statement use of the word “aggression” to characterize the behavior of Japan in the 1930s-1940s, are seen as today’s critical problem, causing trouble abroad.
Following Abe’s electoral success in December, the critique of progressive thinking did not let up. One far-reaching argument is that in an age of disorder Japanese must abandon misconceptions about the role of the state. On January 21, in the Seiron column of Sankei Shimbun, Hakamada Shigeki described the new period as one when China and Russia infringe on sovereignty, throwing their great power weight around, when Islamic extremism and terrorism challenge the world order, when the EU is split, and when the United Nations and the United States are unexpectedly helpless. All of this contradicts assumptions about what the twenty-first century with its globalization would bring. The liberals were wrong, he adds, since the state is the guardian of order, stability, and human rights. Military power prevents war and protects the rule of law at the same time that it could do the opposite. Illusions must be dispelled, not least in Japan, where people have enjoyed a rare degree of social order, Hakamada concludes, without explaining what balance is needed within Japan to enable civil society to check the state and to globally forge coalitions and support the US role. This is a call for realism, but it is tinged with assertiveness about national identity.
The annual public opinion survey based on October polling was reported in Sankei Shimbun on December 21. The least popular nation in Japan is North Korea at 88 percent. For the third year running, more than 80 percent also do not feel friendly toward China. Russia trailed behind with 76 percent, only a slight increase of 1.6 percent from the year before, in spite of its aggression in Ukraine, which is indicative of the ameliorating impact of Abe’s continue pursuit of Putin. Of all the results, the drop in friendliness toward South Korea drew the most attention, climbing from 58 percent to 66 percent over the past year. This article attributes the jump to the “comfort women” issue, the charges against the Sankei reporter, and the repeated anti-Japanese remarks of Park Geun-hye. Among countries active in Northeast Asia, the only positive case is the United States, to which 83 percent expressed friendship (the mirror image of the Chinese figure and the fourth year running since US assistance to the East Japan earthquake and tsunami victims with a total over 80 percent). Alienated increasingly from their neighbors, Japanese feel closer to the United States, but their trust in this ally may not be steadfast, given intensifying charges of the anti-Japanese gullibility of Americans in the face of Chinese and South Korean history campaigns.
After Abe visited the Israeli Holocaust Museum on January 19, the following day’s Sankei Shimbun recalled his visit last March to Anne Frank’s museum in Holland and explained that he was using these opportunities to dispel misunderstandings of his historical consciousness and accusations of being a revisionist, especially by American media. Yet, Yomiuri Shimbun on January 24 was careful to call on Abe to do more to show that what Americans view as the “good Abe” for his moves on defense outshines what they see as the “bad Abe” for his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine and unsettling effect on South Korea. In this seventieth anniversary year, Americans are watching closely to see which of his faces will appear. If Abe revised the Murayama and Kono statements, the impact would not only be to severely worsen relations with Korea and China, but also to bring into the open a divide with the United States. Abe’s January 5 New Year’s address, declaring that he would stick fully to the historical consciousness of prior cabinets, was welcomed by the Obama administration, but a joint appeal by Michael Green and Kurt Campbell in a visit to the LDP headquarters had cautioned on January 20 about the need to dispel misunderstandings in international society about the “comfort women” issue, while a committee led by former prime minister Nakasone on restoring honor and trust in Japan had warned against arousing the outside world about history. The article noted that Abe is likely to visit the United States during Golden Week, China’s leader is expected to participate in the anti-fascist war victory celebration in Russia on May 9, June 22 will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the normalization with South Korea, and there is a possibility that after June, China and South Korea will intensify the public relations war over historical consciousness. In light of the lesson from the impact of Abe’s Yasukuni Shrine visit in the United States, it is essential, the article added, to stabilize Japan-US relations, and Abe should seek the understanding of the Obama administration in advance. This commentary suggests that a wide gap has now opened in conservative circles in dealing with 2015. The Yomiuri response clashes with that of Sankei.
Appealing for Abe to give priority to the “third arrow” and to a real strategy of economic growth, while recognizing that amending the Constitution is difficult during the coming four years he is likely to be in office, Kawato Sadafumi in the January 11 Nihon Keizai Shimbun made clear what he considers to be the path to international society. It is not defiance centered on challenging what are understood to be women’s rights by concentrating on the “comfort women” issue. (An adjacent editorial comment added a note of caution in handling history issues during the year of the seventieth anniversary.) Rather, the need is for growth within an open, international economy, in which agriculture is treated as a business, while also making sure to give hope to young people through reform of the social welfare system, hard as it is.
This realist approach contrasts with the recent conservative drive for revisionism. On January 27, Asahi Shimbun warned of the danger of an “Abe statement” for the seventieth anniversary, suspecting that his insistence that he will inherit past statements masks an intention to introduce new language that would not recognize the history of colonialism and aggression and alarm Europe and the United States, which seek stability in East Asia. It views the Murayama statement as what international society considers the cornerstone of Japan’s diplomacy, as this newspaper clearly does.
The challenge of reviving mutual trust between Japanese and South Koreans draws conflicting assessments. At one extreme is the argument that Koreans are fervently anti-Japanese, while Japan’s society is healthy and far more Japanese feel friendly to South Korea, i.e., the problem is on the Korean side, as asserted by Sankei Shimbun on January 11. At the other extreme is the argument that Japanese thinking on the “comfort women” issue is the key to Japan’s acceptance in international society, although the house arrest of the Sankei reporter tests Korea’s adherence to its values too, as noted by Asahi Shimbun on January 13. The conservative cause is in the ascendancy, and recognition of the link between Japan’s thinking about the “comfort women” and its image as a supporter of women’s rights remains limited.
The path to restoring Japan-ROK relations is one-sided concessions, conservatives argue, or mutual respect, Japanese progressives avow. For the former, the “comfort women” issue is about Japan’s self-pride; for the latter, it is a bilateral challenge for building trust. The conservatives have lost hope in South Korea, positing a struggle with its anti-Japanese campaign to tarnish Japan’s name in the West, especially in the United States, as seen in Sankei’s “historical war” (rekishisen) column, e.g., on January 16, targeting an English-language novel on the “comfort women” with the explanation that the war extends to culture. Indeed, the year 2014 stands, in their view, as a great turning point for Japan, counterattacking against slurs on its reputation and self-loathing, as seen in the January 3 Sankei Shimbun. Those who have lost hope in South Korea take pains to expose it as abandoning the United States and joining with China. Its pro-North Korean and anti-American sentiments as a country under the sway of leftist feelings are exaggerated, to the point that one Seiron column (January 3) in Sankei concluded that within the next five years South Korea’s alliance with the United States would be ruptured, and it would become a security problem for Japan, not just an historical and territorial problem.
As seen in a January 29 article in Shukan Shincho by Sakurai Yoshiko, the right wing in Japan is turning its anger against the United States, insisting that it is completely siding with China and South Korea on the ”comfort women” issue, the Yasukuni Shrine, and other historical matters. Responding to the Congressional Research Service January 13 report on Japan-US relations, she claims that it is filled with misunderstandings and asks why Japan’s public relations strategy is not working. While acknowledging the report’s positive assessment of Abe’s policies on boosting the alliance and the economy, she takes exception that Abe is endangering the US national interest by stirring up anti-Japanese feelings over historical questions. To her, what is occurring is an anti-Japan history war on the stage of the United States. She blames the State Department for expressing disappointment toward Abe’s visit to Yasukuni, while remaining silent about China building a memorial in Harbin to Ahn Jung-Geun, the terrorist. Asking why America does not understand Japan, she blames the Japanese side for allowing Korean Americans to gain the spotlight, but also suggests that Americans have a psychology of wanting Japan to be a weak country, which she traces back to the occupation’s policy of disarmament.
Given the North Korean menace and the US preoccupation with security in East Asia, Japanese conservatives seem to think that South Korea will no longer be able to play the “history card.” The January 8 Yomiuri Shimbun heralded the intelligence sharing agreement reached with South Korea—even if sharing has to go through the United States—as an important advance. While acknowledging that Seoul does not want to arouse Beijing, it insists that cooperation with Japan, using the Aegis systems of both countries, is of shared importance for security against North Korean missiles.
On January 19, Yomiuri Shimbun began a series on relations with neighboring states on the occasion of the seventieth and fiftieth anniversaries of critical events, asserting that the biggest problem for Japanese diplomacy is restoring relations with South Korea. It then noted that on January 19, while visiting the Middle East, Abe had gone to the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. When he had visited the Yasukuni Shrine, critics in the West had protested, including the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and Abe was keen to dispel concerns. Meanwhile, the paper reports, China and South Korea see the key to improving relations in the statement to be issued by the Abe cabinet in August, while Japanese see the possibility of enflamed emotions linked to commemorations, intensifying one-sided demands on Japan. It calls for a diplomatic strategy to forge new, future-oriented relations and carefully treat issues that pose problems. The next day, this newspaper focused on why China is delaying talks on a mechanism to forestall accidents at sea, concluding that China may be fearful of another Abe visit to Yasukuni in 2015 and linking history to security after already growing distrustful over Japan’s interpretation of the four-point document that led to the Abe-Xi summit, which insisted Japan’s position had not changed and contradicted China’s claims.
On January 23, Yomiuri Shimbun wrote pessimistically about the prospects for Abe-Park relations in 2015, noting that on January 15 Abe had sent her a message that in this year of the fiftieth anniversary the two countries should establish a new starting point, repeating his frequent call for a summit with her. Yet, after Noda’s informal offer for resolving the “comfort women” issue was rejected, Japan has lost trust in South Korea, compounded by the rejection of its requests for a summit without preconditions. Although Abe and Park did not have a summit in Beijing, they chatted extensively on November 10 at the APEC dinner. The article contends that as Park’s approval ratings have slumped, concern is growing that anti-Japan sentiments will be further fanned. Dates to note are February 22 when Shimane Ken marks “Takeshima Day,” March 1 when the 1919 independence movement is made the focus in Korea, and June 22, the actual fiftieth anniversary of the normalization (a “humiliating agreement” in the eyes of groups in South Korea). The article does not abandon hope, calling for an intelligent plan for forward-looking overall relations.
To build trust progressives call for concessions from both sides, an Asahi editorial of December 30 sought linkage between the seventieth and fiftieth anniversaries through the prime minister’s statements, recognizing the great geographical and economic commonalities with neighboring states. It recalls that Abe’s grandfather Kishi was active in the search for normalization (although his failure to find an answer may foretell Abe’s own failure to sustain the spirit of this agreement) and Park’s father was the one who achieved it, overcoming domestic opposition. Seeking compromise, the editorial appeals for good-neighborly spirit, but it offers little basis for optimism.
Kitaoka Shinichi offered his viewpoint on the campaign against Asahi Shimbun in the December 26 issue of Yomiuri Shimbun. Accusing various media of going to extremes similar to what Asahi has done, e.g., in taking more than 30 years to correct its error in reporting on testimony about the “comfort women,” he warns against one-sided campaigns in the media that overlook the need for a softer, future-oriented stance. Kitaoka says that the anti-Korean hate speech in Japan should not be overlooked. At the same time as he notes that in covering the right of collective self-defense Asahi‘s reporting is distorting the debate on what is apt to cause war in the world, he calls it one of Japan’s influential papers and welcomes its reform, not its total destruction. As a member of the third-party committee reporting on this affair, whose views are presented together, Kitaoka worries about the campaign that has been unleashed. In the January issue of Gaiko, he praised the “soft peace” following WWII (in contrast to the “hard peace” that burdened Germany after WWI and led to Hitler’s rise), which led to the “long peace” that still endures. He points, however, to historical issues as the most serious challenge for Japanese diplomacy today and expresses concern that Japan will be isolated by China and South Korea. Too many Japanese do not feel responsible for the period of colonialism and are focusing on opposition to rising criticism coming from abroad. Given that it is difficult to get China to stop playing the “history card” since it legitimates the Communist Party, Kitaoka focuses first on South Korea and the need to stick to promises between Japan and it, and then on the United States, where too simplistic images of Abe prevail and need to be addressed, but not directly confronted. His proposals for adhering to past agreements, building a replacement facility for the Yasukuni Shrine, and reestablishing the Asian women’s fund, along with leading in the global battle against sexual exploitation, concentrate on a forward-looking posture. Kitaoka labels these proposals a “peace offensive.”
On January 13 in www.nipppon.com, Togo Kazuhiko questions those in Japan who have thrown up their hands at the hopelessness of dealing with Seoul. He appeals to start from the viewpoint of Japan’s national interests and soberly reason about both history and geopolitics, while attributing the acutely widening gap in consciousness to the naiveté of Japanese. Accordingly, Japanese after the end of the war had no sense of the scars left from the colonial system in Korea, contributing to the hiatus before normalization of relations in 1965. Subsequently, however, Japanese became more aware, as seen in many official interactions and responses, while also coming to respect what postwar Korea had accomplished, including democratization, rapid economic development, and culture as represented by the “Korean wave.” Given this atmosphere, Japanese succumbed to naive optimism about the relationship. Instead of raising Korean self-confidence about improving prospects for relations, it emboldened Koreans to insist that Japanese more thoroughly reflect on the past. The August 2011 court judgment obliging the Korean government to demand more from Japan on the “comfort women” issue threw a wrench into the relationship, and the May 2012 court judgment that the 1965 treaty did not resolve forced labor claims against Japan threatened to bring chaos to it. More recently, the arrest of the reporter from Sankei and the Tsushima Buddhist statue theft case have led to further trouble. In expressing how Japanese were caught by surprise, Togo sets the scene for analysis of what should be done by both Japanese and Koreans to find a path forward.
Some in Japan are pointing to the near agreement under Noda and Lee Myung-bak in 2012 on the “comfort women” issue, which Lee scuttled, but Park may have seen as close enough to approve as an acknowledgment of Japan’s responsibility because of the use of government funds in assisting the former “comfort women” as a way of establishing a forward-looking atmosphere. Rather than blaming Park, Nihon Keizai Shimbun on January 11 found that Abe was cold to the plan, while concentrating his attention on exposing Asahi Shimbun’s error. Hate-Korea emotions spread, and the atmosphere was not favorable for the Foreign Ministry to discuss this issue with Abe. The result is a lack of trust with South Korea, concentration on management of the alliance with the United States linked to the seventieth anniversary while allowing the fiftieth anniversary to fester in Korea as a time of doubt about the treaty with Japan.
There was an announcement in the press of the publication of Kimura Kan’s, Nikkan rekishi ninshiki mondai towa nanika? (What is the historical consciousness problem of Japan and South Korea?). It notes that already 70 years have passed since Japan’s colonial occupation of the Korean Peninsula ended. In spite of that, the problem of historical consciousness in bilateral relations has further deepened. This book explores why, establishing a theoretical framework of analysis and reviewing the textbook issue of the 1980s, the “comfort women” issue of the 1990s, and the overall struggle over historical consciousness of the 2000s as case studies. It points to quantitative long-term trends indicative of the problem, striving for balance.
Reports in the press, as in Sankei Shimbun of December 28, remark that North Korea has postponed a statement on abductees and others whom it had promised to cover in a report a half year earlier with the excuse that it did not like the reporting in the Japanese mass media. It had previously delayed from late summer or early fall, then in late October failed to provide information with a postponement to the end of the year. This further delay was confirmation to many of its true intentions all along.
Delays in North Korea’s promised investigation of the abduction issue drew notice in Yomiuri Shimbun on December 26. Noting that Japan has kept pleading for a quick response, the article indicates that North Korea’s position has hardened in light of the UN human rights criticism and the furor over the Sony cyber-attack. Indeed, Japan had joined in presenting the resolution to the UN and had supported the new sanctions by the United States over the cyber-attack. The article pessimistically ends with a statement that the future of Japan-North Korea relations is not clear.
Asahi Shimbun on January 29 responded to the trilateral meeting of Japanese, South Korean, and US representatives to the Six-Party Talks with optimism that all sides stress the importance of dialogue with North Korea and are seeking ways to pursue bilateral talks with North Korea first before reopening the Six-Party Talks. Given historical US talks with Iran and Cuba, with which there are no diplomatic relations, it sees a possibility of talks with North Korea too. Recognizing that nuclear weapons remain a bottleneck, the article suggests that Park Geun-hye’s desire to regain her popularity by advancing North-South relations may advance ties anyway, while Japan, after having its hopes repeatedly dashed, still insists on a commitment to denuclearize before reopening the Six-Party Talks. The smiling picture of the three representatives together conveys hope that progress is within reach, but the tone in describing Japan’s stance is less optimistic, even as coverage of US thinking shortly after the Sony cyber-security incident appears rather removed from reality.
A December 17 Asahi Shimbun article focused on improving Russia-DPRK relations with the prospect of Kim Jong-un going to Moscow after North Korea’s number two leader had visited in November, after North Korea had given its total support to the annexation of Crimea, and after Russia had voted against the resolution on North Korean human rights at the United Nations. It made note of a plan for leasing 10,000 hectares in the Russian Far East to North Korea. If Kim Jong-un were to make a visit to Moscow alone, criticism could be expected from other countries; so the article explains why Putin wants him to come for the May 9 victory commemorations. It suggests too that a gas pipeline and railroad down to South Korea are on the agenda.
An article in Nihon Keizai Shimbun on December 14 asked how close will Sino-Russian relations be, citing a Russian expert that a strategic shift has occurred in Russia involving not only economic ties to China but also cooperation in military technology such as selling the latest technology. Yet, Russians, readers are told, also fear excessive dependence on China and want to avoid having no friends besides it. Given this desire for balance in Asian diplomacy, Japan stands as an important candidate, and Putin does not want to damage relations with it. Thus, Japan should quickly adjust its diplomacy to Russia, aiming at resolution of the territorial issue is the advice being heard, since the ball is in Japan’s court. Although the Ukraine issue had almost ended Abe’s initiative, he resumed it with a Beijing meeting with Putin. The article concludes with an appeal for wisdom in Japanese diplomacy to prevent closer Sino-Russian ties, but it does not explain what Russia wants or why Russia would find so much value in Japan that it would change the main thrust of its policy.
As Sino-Japanese talks on a mechanism, including a hot line, to avoid an accident at sea drew positive coverage from Yomiuri Shimbun on January 22; an adjacent article appeared on the Foreign Ministry response to the Russian reaction to what Foreign Minister Kishida had said in Belgium on January 20, linking what was taking place in Ukraine to Russia’s use of force to alter the situation in the Northern Territories in 1945. The Russian Foreign Ministry responded that Japan was distorting the causes and consequences of the war, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga reiterated Japan’s position that the loss of the islands occurred by force only after Japan had accepted the Potsdam Declaration. At a time when Russia and Japan are supposed to meet to try to settle the territorial dispute and when the seventieth year commemorations could exacerbate differences over history, this exchange exacerbated doubts on both sides.
On January 25, Sankei Shimbun strongly supported the Kishida and Suga statements, rejecting the notion that as Japan accelerates preparations for a visit by Foreign Minister Lavrov in advance of Putin’s expected visit it should restrain its advocacy on the territorial issue. Sankei doubts the significance of the visit if Japan’s stance on the islands is downplayed. It also contends that Russia’s decision to replace the Japanese name of the airport on Etorofu with a Russian name has damaged the environment for a summit. Japan should call upon Russia to stop challenging the international order through the use of force, as China is doing, and distorting history in regard to the islands, Sankei insists, disagreeing with Abe’s soft Russia policy. On January 27, Asahi Shimbun carried Ono Masami’s op-ed on how Russia is inviting international isolation, citing former prime minister Primakov’s warnings to Putin. Contrasting Primakov’s appeal for multipolarity with Japan as one pole to Putin’s shift to completing leaning to China, Ono describes a struggle within the government of Russia between hawks and doves and suggests that if the situation in Ukraine improves and sanctions on Russia are relaxed, Putin could visit Japan and lessen the dependence on China. In this way, Ono keeps a glimmer of hope alive while also not indulging in wishful thinking that Japan can capitalize on Russia’s recent alienation.
A December 27 Yomiuri Shimbun article credited former prime minister Fukuda Takeo—a “thick pipe” to major figures in China—and National Security Council director Yachi Shotaro—Abe’s most trusted foreign policy “brain—with diplomacy from a secret trip by Fukuda in July to a November 7 negotiating session between Yachi and Yang Jiechi, that broke the logjam with China. Recognizing that there is no legal character to the document approved in advance of the summit and that it is subject to different interpretations on whether a dispute exists over territory, the Japanese negotiators finessed the wording with two particular goals in mind, the article concludes. First, Abe was already considering dissolving the Lower House for early elections and wanted to make sure that his Yasukuni Shrine visit’s impact on relations with China would not become an election issue. Second, by resetting the relationship with China, Japan strategically prepares for the seventieth anniversary and the possibility that China and South Korea would intensify their joint struggle over the history issue. These top-secret negotiations are praised as successful diplomacy.
It did not take Xi Jinping long after the summit with Abe to make clear that there would be no letup in the historical campaign against Japan, as Nihon Keizai Shimbun noted on December 14, a day after Xi spoke at a Nanjing ceremony commemorating the victims of the Nanjing massacre. Chinese made clear that history and diplomacy are two separate matters, but the article warned that without a friendly mood there was a dangerous balance on which relations were perched. Naturally, there was no mention of how Japan’s treatment of history had also endangered the prior balance.
A day after the first anniversary of the NSC, Sankei on January 8 assessed its record in intelligence sharing with other countries, winning permission for the right of self-defense, realizing a Sino-Japanese summit, and etc. Once every two weeks it convenes with Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga and four ministers. Despite secrecy, NSC’s role is noted on economic sanctions toward Russia and on relaxation of arms exports along with praise for Japan’s inclusion in the “inner circle of the international intelligence mafia.” The one concern raised is that after 70 years of neglect, Japan now lacks the personnel to staff the NSC and reduce the need to rely on Yachi as a lone “pipe.”
On Sino-Japanese relations, Asahi Shimbun began a series on January 4 about seeing Japan 70 years after the war through a mirror, commenting that of 4,766 foreign students at Waseda University half are from China. Coming mostly for one year, they learn about Japanese views of history and of other matters. The continued merits of such exchanges are a bright spot in bilateral relations, the article suggested. Despite the troubled state of Sino-Japanese relations, Chinese tourists are visiting Japan in record numbers too. A December 18 Nihon Keizai Shimbun article explained the doubling of tourists in November over a year earlier to 200,000 as a result of a cheap yen and the popularity of anime and dramas. It also notes that South Koreans are finding Japan the cheapest place to visit, coming to shop. In both cases, visitors are perceived as trying to figure out this strange country to learn its true image
Sankei Shimbun on December 26 (page 5) reviewed policies toward Europe, noting that as US international influence is in relative decline, Japan is striving to narrow the distance with Europe, which shares the same values; but, Ukraine has now thrown a wrench into Abe’s efforts. Abe has sought to make the case that China is not a distant country to Europe, which is easier to grasp when parallels are raised between the situation in Ukraine and that in the East China Sea—both threats to international society. Abe also has sought to counter campaigns by China and South Korea timed for the seventieth anniversary against Japan by convincing international opinion that Japan is a peaceful country. Yet, at the same time, in an effort to keep Russia from leaning excessively to China, Abe is insisting on the value of his personal relations with Putin and on Japan’s autonomous diplomacy. With vice-ministerial level talks set to resume with Russia in February, the paper cites the hopes that the economic crisis in Russia raises the possibility of it drawing closer to Japan and agreeing to a territorial compromise in return for economic assistance. In this confusing situation mixing concerns over history, territory, and security, Japan is intensifying interest in Europe, but Sankei makes no mention of wider coordination under US leadership.
Arguing that this campaign is intensifying for the seventieth anniversary, it takes critiques of Japan’s wartime conduct as equivalent to attacks on the honor of today’s Japan and assumes that Japan can successfully counterattack by pressuring US publishers, such as McGraw-Hill to excise such criticisms. This is a flawed strategy that damages the honor of today’s Japan more than the campaign the article is opposing. Japanese had so much to gain by focusing on postwar Japan’s peaceful nature and the growing sense of international responsibility of a realist Japan, marking the seventieth as a time far removed from a past best put behind Japan, but they have played into Chinese hands by making the link between past and present as vivid as Chinese dramas portray it.
Taking offense at comparisons of Japan’s conduct in China with the Holocaust, Sankei on December 26 offered details about a campaign by Chinese Americans in California to portray Japanese as cruel with the Nanjing massacre in the forefront. In making Japan’s wartime behavior rather than its postwar virtues the criterion for judging its current worth, conservatives are doing a great favor to China’s campaign. The argument of conservatives is focused on insisting that Japan is a victim due to how its wartime history is treated, i.e., it has lost its honor due to the progressives in Japan more than to the criticism of Chinese and South Koreans, echoed in the West.
In the January issue of Gaiko, articles centered on the seventieth anniversary, among them items on China by Takahara Akio, Shiroyama Hidemi, and Tanino Sakutaro. Stress is put on what both countries should do. Takahara urges Japan to carefully watch its words, reflecting on its responsibility as the instigator of war and widely publicizing its postwar cooperation to the benefit of both nations. He eschews idealism that the November summit was a turning point, noting how little has changed, but he lists reasons why developments in China and bilateral relations offer hope for new steps. Shiroyama seeks to explain what is driving Xi Jinping’s Japan policy, observing that on December 13, in commemorating the Nanjing massacre in Nanjing as on July 7, in marking the 1937 incident that led to all-out war and on September 3, marking the day of victory in the war, Xi was preparing for the upcoming seventieth anniversary year with a non-compromising attitude on history and on attempts to whitewash a war of aggression. Remarking that Zhang Dejiang, numer three in the leadership hierarchy, is seen as most severe on Japan and that Xi is pressed to be tough, Shiroyama sees Xi’s aims in 2015 as both to send a message to the Chinese people and to forge international linkages while sending a message to Japan. To this end, the ambassadors of other states were invited to Xi’s Nanjing speech, but not the Japanese ambassador. Meeting with Abe in November also was meant to persuade international society about why Sino-Japanese relations deteriorated. Deepening exchanges with the United States serve this objective too. Yet, Shiroyama sees China trying to avert the danger of 2015 bringing worse relations with Japan. Thus, improvement in relations is possible if there is a way to navigate through the challenges associated with days steeped in history. Former ambassador to China Tanino reviews how the Murayama fiftieth anniversary statement was prepared with close attention to the choice of words and the input of Hashimoto Ryutaro, who represented the LDP and would soon be Japan’s prime minister, explaining that the goal then was to move beyond history to future relations in East Asia. This recollection is a reminder of what was achieved in the 1990s and what could be lost in the 2010s—a message this journal connected to the Foreign Ministry as appearing intent on conveying as the anniversary year began.