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Japan Should Face Up to Wartime Aggression

August 15 is a remarkable day for the world, in particular for the Asian nations invaded by Japanese troops during World War II.

On this day 60 years ago, Japan was brought to its knees when the emperor declared unconditional surrender as demanded by the Allies.

The triumph of justice over injustice and pacifism over fascism must be commemorated by peace-loving people who made a joint contribution all over the world.

Japan's warmongers inflicted untold sufferings not only on neighbouring nations but also on massive numbers of ordinary Japanese.

In this sense, August 15 should also serve as the anniversary of the day the Japanese people were freed from military rule, which proved to be a blessing for Japan, Asia and the world as a whole.

But for some Japanese rightist politicians, the day ostensibly has different implications.

Every year on August 15, a handful of rightists spark public outcry at the notorious Yasukuni Shrine where millions of Japanese war dead, including 14 Class-A war criminals, are honoured.

Japanese trade minister Shoichi Nakagawa visited the shrine yesterday. At least two cabinet ministers have said they will visit it today.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged to visit the shrine this year without specifying a date. He has paid homage at the shrine, a symbol of Japanese militarism and wartime government-sponsored Shintoism to propagate imperialism, four times since taking office in 2001.

The Japanese politicians' claims that their visits allow them to pray for peace are not sound.

Signs inside the shrine refer to Japan's wartime prime minister Hideki Tojo and other Class-A war criminals as "martyrs" who were "wrongly accused by the allied forces."

Even today the shrine is still full of material glorifying Japan's past aggression, with no signs of repentance for wartime crimes.

The fact that the incumbent prime minister visits Yasukuni as the representative of the nation displays a keen lack of awareness of, and disregard for, others who have felt the pain of Japan's aggression.

Koizumi stubbornly persists in his efforts to please Japan's right-wingers, who insist on the belief that sweeping the dirt under the carpet is the only action they need to take.

In the past few months, right- wing nationalists have increasingly prominently opposed what they see as "one-sided" the International Military Tribunal for the Far East's trials.

They claim Class-A war criminals convicted of crimes against peace and humanity are not criminals in Japan.

It is absurd that national leaders of a so-called peaceful Japan continue to refuse to face the country's past sins.

Foreign Minister Nobutaka Machimura in June dismissed outside concerns over his government's endorsement of a textbook distorting World War II history as a product of "prejudice."

Without a guilty conscience, some Japanese lawmakers went so far as to seek to revise the country's current peaceful constitution to suit Japan's desire to play a greater role in global affairs in a military sense.

Is this the way to consider the tremendous damage and suffering brought to Asian people during Japan's colonization and wartime aggression?

This raises a question for the world what role does Japan intend to play in the international arena?

In April, Koizumi told the Asia-Africa Summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, that his country "squarely faces the facts of history in a spirit of humility."

While he reissued an old half-hearted speech about "remorse," actions surely speak louder than words.

In fact, his words appeared faint, and his sincerity is also in doubt as he has gone back on his word time and time again.

Only with an honest attitude towards history can a nation win reconciliation and then integrate into the global community.

(China Daily August 15, 2005)

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