Friday, August 15, 2008

BBC Gets It Wrong on Yasukuni? So What’s New ?

Yasuo Fukuda expressed his "deep regret" over the war, and renewed his country's commitment to peace.

But he did not stop three ministers paying their respects at the Yasukuni shrine to those who died fighting for Japan, including war criminals. sez BBC

So? What's the point?
Previous prime ministers have stirred regional tensions by visiting Yasukuni.

Repeated visits by Junichiro Koizumi caused anger in South Korea and China, where there remains a widely-held conviction that Tokyo has not atoned properly for its war-time crimes.

Mr Koizumi's successor, Shinzo Abe, also paid respects at the shrine, though not while in office.

So? Name the others. Even you admit that Mr. Abe was not a Prime Minister at the time. You didn’t even bother to find out, did you? I’ll give you a name. Yasuhiro Nakasone. I dare you to find another one that “stirred regional tensions.” I can’t, since I don’t have assistants to look out for me.
There, bitterness at Japan's perceived reluctance to assume responsibility for its war-time wrongdoing lies behind several thorny bilateral issues, such as the current dispute over a pair of islets which lie between the two countries.

Let me tell you something. The only way we can put that South Korean fury to rest is if Japan relinquishes all claims to Takeshima, forfeiting its right to resort to seeking legal recourse at the Hague. To South Korea, Japan’s pursuit of legal remedies is a manifestation of its “reluctance to assume responsibility for its wrongdoing”—not limited to “wartime”.
Mr Fukuda has worked to try to resolve the tensions with Japan's neighbours that marked Mr Koizumi's 2001-06 period in office.

Again, an editorial decision to ignore Mr. Abe’s role in the Japan-China (and South Korea) political rapprochement. The willful ignorance repeatedly displayed by Western journalists continues to take way my breath.


tokyo said...

Abe-san's place in history for rapprochement with China and South Korea was dealt a severe blow by his visit to Yasukuni Shine today. It merely showed that, once again, Japanese politicians can not be trusted regarding closure on WWII, i.e., Abe declines to go to Yasukuni as Prime Minister, but runs there immediately once out of office, showing his true colors. And let's not forget what this is all about; the enshrinement of Class A war criminals at Yasukuni Shrine, namely Tojo Hideki. And yes, Tojo's 63 year old diary suddenly is released to the public this week, written by the old Kempeitai Master himself, stating that Japan's citizenry and politicians were weak in the face of "new bombs" dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and that Japan should not surrender. This shows that Tojo's fanatical sense of purpose never wavered, despite the destruction of his nation, much like Hitler in this bunker, facing impossible odds. Abe and Koizumi payed homage to this man at Yasukuni today..for what??? Remove Tojo and his band of A Class war criminals from Yasukuni, and then who would care if even the King of Japan paid homage to Japan's war dead?

ross said...

Besides Nakasone, also Hashimoto. But both of them backed off. Only Koizumi persisted. And I think there may have been various PM visits earlier in the postwar era, before anyone was paying much attention.

Derek said...

Coverage of Japan will remain biased and selective in coverage as long as people of, say, Onishi Norimitsu's ilk are taken seriously as objective journalists.

Jun Okumura said...

Ross: Thank you for reminding me of Mr. Hashimoto. And as you point out, Japanese Prime Ministers routinely went to Yasukuni before Mr. Nakasone stopped going in deference to Chinese sentiments.

Tokyo: I’ve never met this chap “history” so I have no idea what he has to say about Mr. Abe’s August 15 visit to Yasukuni. I do know however that China does not care one whit what Mr. Abe does with Yasukuni in his afterlife. In fact, the Chinese authorities only care what incumbent Prime Ministers, Chief Cabinet Secretaries, Foreign Affairs Ministers and Defense Ministers do. The Chinese authorities are understanding of the religious sentiments; they only object to the political symbolism, intended or not, of the four. If you don’t believe me, please note that even Asahi could only find a North Korean source to slam Mr. Abe (as well as Taro Aso and Yuriko Koike) this time around.

It is interesting that you raise Hideki Tojo as the prime example of the class A war criminals. It tells me that your country fought the war of the empires in the Asia-Pacific. The Chinese fought the Japanese invasion, so they should have a different list of their favorite villains. In fact, I suspect that in China he would not even make the Top Three Wanted list. My money there is on Kenji, Dohihara, Seishiro Itagaki and Iwane Matsui, likely in that order. There are many histories, Tokyo. Any one of them in isolation can turn out to be little more than a set of conventional wisdoms. Be careful when you presume to speak for all of them.

As for the Tojo diaries, the excerpts that have been quoted do make him come across as a peevish, self-serving egotist. But I’ll reserve my judgment on that until I read the book, if I get around to it. And yes, they show that he held views that were wildly popular among much of the elite military officials deep down into the chain of command. Do you think then, that of those men, the ones who escaped prosecution by death in battle or were executed for lesser if no less horrendous crimes should also be sought out and evicted from Yasukuni? Do you believe in good faith that all the class A war criminals truly deserving of their fate under prevailing international law of the times? Do you now see the political nature of the controversy?

Derek: No media outlet can be truly global in all its aspects. There will always be a local bias. I do believe that it is important to point them out though, particularly when they feed and feed on conventional wisdom that can at times skirt the edges of the realm of urban legends. This is particularly urgent when a journalist deliberately distorts the facts (or even makes them up) to fit a prefabricated narrative. Here is the most egregious example of distortions that I’ve blogged so far.

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I have a soft spot for Norimitsu Onishi’s plaintive vignettes, which do depict an important facet of the mood of the times. However, he appears to be too unable or unwilling to come to grips with the big picture to be the really well-rounded foreign correspondent that a general-purpose daily newspaper should ideally put forth. There are also a couple of occasions—most notably on the controversy surrounding Mr. Abe’s comments on the comfort women issue—that I have voiced suspicions about his journalistic integrity.