What Japan must do to end Asian criticism of its diplomacy -- Akahata editorial, May 30, 2001

Asian countries are increasing their criticism of Japan over the school textbook issue and official visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Unable to respond to this criticism, the Koizumi cabinet finds no way out to break through the matter.

In recent talks with Japan's Foreign Minister Tanaka Makiko, the Chinese and South Korean foreign ministers directly requested Japan to correct its attitude. Tanaka, however, throughout the talks read out manuscripts prepared by the minister's secretariat, without trying to engage in a fruitful exchange.

Monotonous reading of bureaucrats' manuscript

For example, on the history textbook issue, the governments of China and South Korea called for the correction of the textbook of the "Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform." Mentioning that Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is sincerely examining the matter, Tanaka made a negative response to this by saying, "It is hardly possible for the content of the school textbook and the government's historic view to coincide perfectly with each other."

Japan's government can't avoid its responsibility for passing the screening of the school textbook which glorifies Japan's war of aggression and era of colonialism.

It must be noted that the foreign minister, just after the inauguration, promised to make efforts toward improving the matter because she found that, "some people are still trying to distort historical facts by publishing such a textbook." In contrast, her argument stated in the official talks can't be accepted in the diplomatic arena.

On the Yasukuni Shrine issue Tanaka said, "Visiting the shrine does not mean glorifying the war, but offering a silent prayer for the dead," and supported Prime Minister Koizumi Jun'ichiro's statement on making official visits to the shrine.

Yasukuni Shrine was a military-religious institute used as an ideological backbone to push ahead with the war of aggression. Is the prime minister's Yasukuni Shrine visit on August 15, an historic day, acceptable as an act of prayer for the war dead? Class A criminals of the war of aggression are enshrined there.

Any argument to justify the prime minister's visit to Yasukuni Shrine tramples on the heart of Asian peoples who suffered from damages caused by Japan's war of aggression and colonial rule during and prior to World War II, and are now increasingly concerned about Japan's moves. For Japan's foreign minister to make such contradictory remarks at official talks will damage Japan's diplomatic efforts.

This is why after Chinese Foreign Minister Tang Jiaxuan met with Japanese Foreign Minister Tanaka, Chinese President Jiang Zemin met with one of the Korean ruling party's top leaders and criticized Prime Minister Koizumi for overlooking the fact that visiting Yasukuni Shrine is actually an act of cherishing the memory of militarism.

The controversy has had a negative effect on Japan-South Korea relations, as is clear from the postponement of the Japan-South Korea ministerial conference and a friendship soccer match between the two countries' parliamentarian teams.

Criticism arose from other Asian nations, too. An English daily in Singapore criticized Prime Minister Koizumi for speaking in favor of a revision of the Constitution, saying that Japan has not "come to terms with its war guilt as its neighbors and former victims are aware."

The textbook question, the controversy over a Yasukuni Shrine visits, and the call for constitutional revisions are all derived from Japan's lack of remorse for its past war of aggression. Prime Minister Koizumi revealed this during the Diet discussion in which he showed no intention of admitting that it was a war of aggression.

Foreign Minister Tanaka's reading the text prepared by bureaucrats from beginning to end in her talks with the Chinese foreign minister shows that she follows in the old Liberal Democratic Party's footsteps.

Is this way of diplomacy toward Asia acceptable? This must be called into question now.

Independent and peaceful foreign policies

Japan, as an Asian country, must place its relations with other Asian countries at the center of its foreign policy. Remorse for the past war of aggression and colonization is a prerequisite to inter-Asia friendships.

A shift to an independent and peaceful foreign policy will enable Japan to establish peaceful and stable relations with Asian countries.

It is already clear that the Koizumi Cabinet, which follows traditional LDP politics, is unwilling to do

this. (end)