Regarding the Sept. 27 article “Kan rejects Beijing’s demand for apology“: Prime Minister Naoto Kan must find himself between a rock and a hard place. His position was already tenuous enough before the fishing boat incident off the Senkaku Islands. Now he faces a demand from China for an apology — and compensation. Sounds familiar! Many Southeast Asian countries have been making the same appeal to successive Japanese governments since the end of the Pacific War.
I was a youngster when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and I heard the news in the South Pacific country of my birth with disbelief. Japan, rather than Germany, became the focal point of our childish war games. After the victory against Japan, the full horror of what had been happening in our near north was revealed as emaciated prisoners of war returned home.
Time heals though, and although in my heart I know that we have never been given a real apology for the atrocities of the war in the Pacific, I guess that age, and my reading of dozens of books written by those who really suffered in that war, have changed my attitude. Many of those writers have found it possible to find forgiveness and to forget the past. Not all, though. I have met war veterans who will touch nothing Japanese and never ride in a Japanese car.
I have now lived in Hong Kong for many years, and since the 1960s have traveled to Japan at least 50 times. I have many pleasant memories of the country and its people, and have a number of Japanese friends. But many of my Hong Kong Chinese friends nurture an intense hatred of Japan and its people that goes beyond reason. These feelings have been engendered by what happened to them and their families during the Japanese occupation. I believe that this hatred also exists throughout those regions of China that were under Japanese occupation. When I speak to my Chinese friends, they say they will never forget and forgive until there is an expression of solemn and genuine regret from Japan, and sincere contrition shown. Those in Hong Kong say that compensation does not enter into this — it is a matter of honor.
Kan is probably right not to accept the demand to apologize (for the arrest and detention of the Chinese fishing boat captain). But as a liberal-minded person, he should think about Japan’s past transgressions and consider carefully how to make an honorable and dignified landing on that rock — or hard place — that confronts him, his government and the Japanese people.
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