Japan marks the 61st anniversary of the end of World War II even as its politicians send signals that lead other peoples in the world to question its true inclinations. One such signal was the prediction that Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi would visit Yasukuni Shrine on Tuesday, the very day of the anniversary.
Yasukuni honors not only Japan’s 2.46 million war dead but also 14 Class-A war criminals. Mr. Koizumi, who has made five Yasukuni visits since he became prime minister in 2001, says the purpose of his visits is to renew a pledge of not leading the nation into another war. Another Yasukuni visit, however, will only deepen suspicions that Japan has not learned from its past mistakes, irrespective of Mr. Koizumi’s personal intentions.
Another signal was the remarks made by several politicians — after North Korea test-fired ballistic missiles July 5 — that Japan should consider possessing the capability of carrying out a preemptive strike on an enemy missile base in order to protect Japan from imminent attack. This notion is not only a departure from Japan’s postwar policy of not possessing offensive weapons, but it led some foreign media to speculate that Japan is considering arming itself with nuclear weapons.
In Japan, the anniversary of the war’s end should serve not only as a memorial to the sufferings of the Japanese during the war years but also as a reminder of the sufferings inflicted on other peoples as a result of its wartime behavior. To accomplish this, Japanese leaders must demonstrate greater efforts to learn from historical facts.
It would not be unreasonable to deduce from Mr. Koizumi’s repeated visits to Yasukuni a callousness toward the feelings of peoples who suffered at the hands of Japanese militarism. This attitude could just stem from his ignorance of the ideological role that Yasukuni played in mobilizing Japan for modern warfare. As for the remarks on a preemptive capability, they could be attributed to the lack of knowledge of what a real war was, is and would be like. The anniversary should be a day for pondering how best to turn Japan into a true peace-loving nation.
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