Nanjing is a large, relatively prosperous city of 5.3 million souls in the Chinese province of Jiangsu, but 64 years ago it was the site of an outburst of insanity that too often blackens human history. From December 1937 to February 1938 the Japanese invaders savagely killed up to 300,000 Chinese. The Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre was erected on a site where many of the victims were dumped in a mass grave.
On my way to the memorial hall, taxi driver Pu Shu Shun remarked that the memorial hall had heightened his sense of humanity. On how the memorial hall had affected his view of the Japanese, he offered: “The Japanese have a good side. They are serious, and work hard in solidarity. But they also have a dark side.”
Japan, for the most part, was absolved of responsibility for its iniquity during the imperial conquest of much of Asia by the Americans who occupied Japan and developed military bases according to US geostrategic interests -- one of which was to thwart the spread of communism. Japan also had a progressive constitution bestowed upon it, which forbade its armed forces to launch war again.
Although nations victimized by Japan were not recompensed for war crimes against them, Japan’s aggrieved neighbors were somewhat assuaged by the imposition of pacifist Article 9 in Japan’s constitution:
(1) Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as means of settling international disputes.
(2) In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of aggression of the state will not be recognized.
Thorns in Japan-China Relations
Nonetheless, the matter of an official Japanese mea culpa, compensation to individual Chinese victims, cleaning Japanese chemical weapon dumps in China, the sanitizing of Japanese aggression on its neighbors from its school textbooks, and the visits of Japanese prime ministers to the Yasukuni shrine (a Shinto repository for the kami of the Japanese war dead including class A war criminals) stir up the seeds of controversy between China and Japan.
The direction taken under the Koizumi Junichiro stewardship of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has exacerbated sensitivities in nearby nations. Mr. Koizumi has been an unabashed visitor to the Yasukuni shrine and is a fully-fledged chickenhawk. Mr. Koizumi sided with the Washington chickenhawks on aggressing Iraq, a position in blatant contradiction to Article 9. The Koizumi administration also finagled Article 9 such that the Japanese Self Defense Forces could be dispatched to partake in the occupation of Iraq.
Although already approved by the Japanese Diet, Mr. Koizumi remains coy about committing Japanese troops to Iraq in the aftermath of the 19 August terrorist bombing of the UN compound in Baghdad and with the November national election fast approaching. So out came the Japanese wallet with a pledge of $1.5 billion toward the reconstruction of Iraq, having done so prior to the arrival of US President George Bush so as to allay charges of caving in to US pressure. Japan once again bankrolls US aggression.
As reported in the New York Times: “According to Japanese officials, Mr. Koizumi urged Mr. Bush to work more within the United Nations structure, citing the Security Council vote on Thursday [16 October, a day of infamy in the UN when the perfidious resolution 1511 was unanimously passed. According to Democratic Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of the Foreign Relations Committee: “What the vote did today was legitimize the presence of American forces in Iraq.” -- author] on Iraq as an example of how the United States could use the institution ‘as a bridge’ to support its goals in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.” Sounds curiously like exhorting the US to at least feign the pretense of consulting with the world community while in essence seeking only legitimate cover for US policy.
Furthermore, Japan is pursuing a hard-line tact with North Korea, in tandem with American policy, despite overtures that the struggling Communist nation had made toward mending fences with Japan. China meanwhile has remained diplomatically involved in seeking to stymie the occurrence of belligerency in its backyard.
Driving the aggressive Japanese governmental stance
A constitutional amendment to Article 9 is massively unpopular among the Japanese. Japanese are also staunchly anti-nuke but some officials apparently see an opening to pursue nuclearization.
Dispatch of Japanese troops to Iraq, while approved by the Japanese Diet, is highly unpopular and little mentioned by Mr. Koizumi as the November national election approaches. Despite unpopular stances taken by the LDP government, the party has little to fear. Because of the predictable voting patterns of the Japanese, the LDP is unlikely to be seriously challenged at the polling booth. The LDP has only briefly been out of power since 1955.
What is behind the Japanese government’s acquiescence of US violence, contrary to the majority of the populace?
Japan is firmly within the military orbit of the US and has 60,000 US troops stationed on its national territory much to the chagrin of many living near military bases, especially in Okinawa. The Japanese export-driven economy relies on the US as its number one trading partner. Japan also has a transparent desire to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council and since the US is the most powerful veto-wielding member of that body, it would seem to some observers a good horse to tie one’s cart to. Other rational observers would wonder about hitching up with a partner that denigrates the UN as being “irrelevant” and disregards the raison d’être of the institution.
If economic and political ambitions were paramount for Japan then it would seem obvious for Japan to pursue the best possible relations with China. China is the next great market lying right at the doorstep of Japan. It is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and its vote is necessary for Japan to join the elite grouping.
It would seem not only moral but also logical to pursue and actively build solid relations with the fast-growing economies of East Asia. While the US economy is tanking the Chinese economy churns on. China is increasingly more important as a trade partner for Japan. Good relations with China are to Japan’s benefit economically, politically, and security-wise.
A good start would be a long overdue governmental apology. It is time for Japan to put the stigma of the Japanese fascist occupation in the past but never to forget.
Upon departure from the Nanjing memorial visitors are left with a pearl of wisdom: “History is a mirror from which we should learn a lesson.”
Kim Petersen lives in Nova Scotia and is a regular contributor to Dissident Voice newsletter. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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