Widespread anger at Japan’s revisionism
Global Times | 2014-1-20 22:38:01
By Yury Tavrovsky
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT
Many experts now believe that 2014 may be a turning point for the Asia-Pacific region. One ground for such a belief is that Japan plans to mend its pacifist constitution and give up its three non-nuclear principles. Japan's moves are based upon the increasing self-assurance among Japanese society and anxiety over North Korea's nuclear capabilities and China's growing economic and military potentials.
Currently, Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, led by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is trying to deny the results of WWII. At the end of 2013, Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine which enshrines the deified souls of 2.5 million military personnel who served their nation during WWII, including 14 Class-A criminals convicted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. The visit has drawn criticism in Japan as well as from countries like China, Russia, South Korea and the US.
Praying to the souls of the war criminals that planned and initiated a series of wars of aggression to Asian countries equals revoking Japan's invasive history and freeing itself of guilt. It is not surprising that many countries expressed their anger toward Abe's visit.
China has particularly criticized Japan. Japan was in its peak when China at its weakest. In 1931, Japan invaded Northeast China, and it declared all-out war in 1937. Encountering Chinese people's determined resistance, the Japanese invaders tried to paralyze them with horror and committed widespread atrocities. The Nanjing Massacre shocked the civilized world.
After the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05), the Korean Peninsula was seized by Japan and annexed in 1910. Then Japan started ruthless colonial rule in the peninsula, banning the Koreans from speaking their own language and using Korean names. As well as exploiting resources from the peninsula, the Japanese also sent male workers to hard labor in Japan, while women were coerced into sexual service for the Japanese military.
The US, although being Japan's major ally, has never forgotten the Pearl Harbor Attack waged by Japan in December 1941, nor its bloody battles with Japanese army in Okinawa and other Pacific islands.
Due to Japan's aggressive past, Article 9 of its pacifist constitution limits its military activities to self-defense.
Recalling the past enables Washington to keep a close eye on the moves of Abe, who has been trying to loosen US control over Japan. The depreciation policy of yen adopted by Abe aims at making Japanese products more competitive, and Japan now is trying to establish its own zone of economic influence in Southeast Asia, both of which have worried the US.
US President Barack Obama's "pivot to Asia" strategy aims to ensure Washington's dominance in the Asia-Pacific region. Tokyo doesn't necessarily embrace such a move, because it is trying to get rid of its postwar failure syndrome and become a military or even a nuclear power.
Russia also has reasons to worry about Japan. Russia was thrashed by Japan in the Russo-Japanese War, resulting in the 1905 Revolution and following upheavals. In 1918, Japan sent its troops to Vladivostok and planned to occupy Russian territories as far as Lake Baikal.
After the defeat in WWII and the signing of the treaties that ended the war, Japan still required Russia return the South Kuril Islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japanese.
In recent years, the territorial disputes with China and South Korea have also intensified due to Japan's dissatisfaction with the postwar scenario.
Given the abovementioned historical reasons, countries that expressed dissatisfaction with Abe's Yasukuni visit include not only China, South Korea, Russia and the US, but also countries like Myanmar, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Australia, Vietnam and other nations that have suffered from Japanese aggression.
The author is a professor at the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia. email@example.com