Main Examples of the Post-War Diplomacy of Atonement / Making Apologies
1965 The Treaty on Basic Relations between Japan and South Korea
Japan and South Korea both abandoned the right to claim compensation when they normalized relations. However, Japan paid about USD 800 million in economic aid including financing and loans in the form of ‘post-war reparations’.
1978 The Japan-China Peace and Friendship Treaty
Japan and China normalized relations. China abandoned the right to claim compensation. However, by 2008 Japan had paid more than JPY 3.6 trillion in ODA (Official Development Assistance) instead of ‘post-war reparations’. Japan indirectly supported China’s military expansion, not to mention its infrastructure development.
1982 The Neighboring Countries Article (The Miyazawa Discourse)
An inaccurate news report claimed that Japanese history textbooks had rebranded the Japanese ‘invasion’ of China as an ‘advance’, which caused outrage. Then Chief Cabinet Secretary Kiichi Miyazawa issued an unprecedented discourse that Japan should consider the inclinations of neighboring countries when it revised its textbooks. This has given China and South Korea an excuse to turn the content of Japanese history textbooks into a political issue.
1993 The Kono Discourse
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono admitted that the Japanese army had been involved in the recruitment of comfort women during the war and apologized, saying “I apologize from the bottom of my heart and express my deepest regret to all people who have been physically and psychologically harmed to such an extent that it is difficult to recover.” This spread the fictional account of the ‘forced drafting of comfort women by the Japanese army’ around the world, and his apology denigrated the honor of the Japanese people.
1995 The Murayama Discourse
Commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of the war, Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama apologized for ‘(Japanese) colonial rule and aggression, where many countries, especially the people of Asian countries, suffered tremendous harm and pain’. This atonement was symbolic of the historical view that ‘Japan must continue apologizing to Asia forever’.
2010 The Kan Discourse
Prime Minister Naoto Kan apologized to South Korea; “At that time, the South Korean people were deprived, against their wishes, of their own country and culture by colonial rule, and their national pride was deeply hurt”. Thus, he gave the impression that ‘Japan is a country that apologizes readily’, which weakened its diplomatic position with regard to South Korea.
A Collection of Main Utterances of the Word ‘Regret / Regrettable’ by the Japanese Government
1998 North Korea test-fired a Taepodong ballistic missile
“This is extremely regrettable with regard to Japanese security, Northeast Asia’s peace and stability, and the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and we are strongly opposed it.” (Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka)
2006 North Korea test-fired 6 missiles
“We are lodging a serious protest against North Korea and express our regret.” (Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe)
2009 North Korea test-fired 7 missiles
“It is very regrettable that North Korea launched the projectiles despite the requests to abstain from doing so by the international community, including Japan.” (Defence Minister, Yasukazu Hamada)
2010 The Russian President Medvedev illegally landed on Kunashiri Island
“Our position, that the four Northern Islands are Japan’s territory, has remained consistent. It is very regrettable.” (Prime Minister Naoto KAN)
August 2012 South Korean President Lee Myung-bak illegally landed on Takeshima Island
“I thought we had made efforts to build bilateral relations with President Lee, oriented toward the future, and it is extremely regrettable.” (Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda)
September 2012 The Anti-Japan demonstrations turned into riots in China
“It is very regrettable that some demonstrations turned into riots causing significant damage to Japanese companies.” (Foreign Minister Koichiro Genba)
The ‘original sin’ whereby ‘Japan is a sinful aggressor’ lies at the root of weak-kneed diplomacy.
China and South Korea are waging a diplomatic offensive by insulting Japan further. However, all the Japanese government does is express its ‘regret’. Japan should once again show the spirit of the ‘land of the samurai’ and it has an obligation to ‘rebuke’ insolent nations.
Chinese and Korean insults towards Japan did not end with the illegal landing on Takeshima Island by the Korean President and with anti-Japan demonstrations in China. At the UN General Assembly in September, the Chinese Foreign Minister openly accused Japan of ‘robbery’ with regard to the Senkaku Islands issue. In addition, at the IMF General Assembly held in Tokyo in October, China decided to refrain from sending its ministers and such ‘barbaric behavior’, borne out of a lack of international common sense, seems to be unrelenting. Furthermore, in October in New York’s Times Square, Koreans publicized their demand for compensation from Japan concerning the issue of comfort women, and there seems to be no end to this contemptuous treatment of Japan.
On the other hand, the reaction from the Japanese government has been rather spineless. Everything was fine until the Senkaku Islands were nationalized, but then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was reluctant to build any structures on the Senkaku Islands. With regard to the comfort women issue, while the South Koreans have been campaigning with advertisements in the American newspapers, Japan, bound by the Kono Discourse (shown in the table above), has not been able to issue a clear rebuttal statement.
Japan’s ‘Sense of Atonement’
The main reason Japan cannot rebuke the outrageous claims and conduct of China and South Korea is down to the masochistic historical view that ‘Japan committed every possible evil during the Second World War’. Because this historical view exists, Japan continues to pay ‘post-war reparations’ to China and South Korea in the form of economic aid and to repeat its ‘diplomacy of making apologies’ without proper rebuttals of the historical issues (see table above).
However, the latest research reveals that the issues concerning the Nanjing Massacre and comfort women, always quoted as historical problems, are in fact completely fictitious. If these unjustified accusations are not eliminated, a country like China, with its rapidly expanding military capability, might use them as an excuse to invade Japan. In other words, if the Japanese people truly believe that ‘Japan is an evil nation that deserves to perish’, then they might not defend themselves from an invasion.
In order to put an end to the diplomacy of making apologies, and to be able to ‘rebuke’ the insolent conduct of other nations, Japan must begin to verify the historical record.