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Japan's War Guilt


Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa has gone several steps further than any other Japanese politician in discussing Japan's "war responsibility" for the Greater East Asia War.

The completely misguided concept of war responsibility was lifted wholesale from the War Guilt Information Program the U.S. military authorities drew up in September 1945. Many scholars of modern history, including myself, have repeatedly pointed out that this notion is simply a vestige of the Occupation period (1945-1952), a time when U.S. censorship controlled what Japanese read and were taught.

It's astonishing that in 1993 the Hosokawa cabinet is still parroting this line. They perpetuate a greater fallacy than the nonsense about war guilt when they say that the Greater East Asian War was "aggression."

The Japan New Party's program includes a promise "to reflect deeply on [Japan's] past wars." The party's founder, Mr. Hosokawa, has said, "We must immediately declare to Asia and the world that the Pacific War was a terrible mistake, a war of aggression."

He says "Japan and Germany, both nations defeated in World War II," as if their situations were similar. He is utterly incapable of recognizing that Germany waged a war of aggression while Japan fought to defend itself. He doesn't fathom the contrast between the two countries in the postwar era. Politicians are busy, I know, but this man is unprepared for high office.

Tsutomu Hata, the foreign minister, wants to do more than express regret for Japan's actions and make a formal apology. Born in 1935, Mr. Hata must have finished high school before the leftist ideology espoused by the Japan Teachers Union pervaded the classrooms. How in the world did he get to be so ignorant?

Such deluded people running the government can do tremendous damage to our national interests and honor in a very short time. Their incredible regurgitation of U.S. occupation propaganda has made them laughingstocks to well-informed people everywhere. From the standpoint of practical politics, too, their views show they are totally unqualified to lead Japan, now or in the future.

The international community, especially the developing countries of Asia, aren't interested in Japan's mea culpa about events of long ago. They want Tokyo to contribute to the maintenance of international order and to help raise their standards of living. For Japanese themselves to point out blunders in our foreign policy a half-century ago sounds like a devious pretext for avoiding a commitment to regional security. Unfortunately, some Asians want to extort money from us, and apologies just encourage them.

Messrs. Hosokawa and Hata talk about making amends for aggression because they haven't got the slightest understanding of Asian nationalism. The region was liberated from Western colonialism by the Imperial Army and Navy. These LTC men have insulted the more than 2.1 million heroic Japanese soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice in the Greater East Asian War. It's intolerable that politicians like Prime Minister Hosokawa and Foreign Minister Hata are speaking for the nation.

Keiichiro Kobori, is a professor of comparative literature at the University of Tokyo. His article from the Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun was translated by The Asia Foundation.

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