Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Monday, August 15, 2005

Koizumi Apologizes for War; Embraces China and South Korea - New York Times

Koizumi Apologizes for War; Embraces China and South Korea - New York TimesAugust 16, 2005
Koizumi Apologizes for War; Embraces China and South Korea

TOKYO, Aug. 15 - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi observed the 60th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II on Monday by apologizing for the country's past militarism in Asia and pledging to uphold its postwar pacifism.

In a speech at a government-sponsored memorial service at the Nippon Budokan hall here, Mr. Koizumi also reached out directly to China and South Korea by saying that the three nations should work together "in maintaining peace and aiming at development in the region."

Mr. Koizumi joined Emperor Akihito, who said he hoped that "the horrors of war will never be repeated," in bowing before an altar of chrysanthemums. Exactly sixty years ago, the emperor's father, Emperor Hirohito, spoke directly to the Japanese people for the first time when he announced Japan's surrender over the radio, saying they should "bear the unbearable and endure the unendurable."

In the first apology delivered on Aug. 15 by a prime minister since the 50th anniversary of the war's end, Mr. Koizumi said: "Our country has caused tremendous damage and pain to the peoples of many countries, especially Asian countries, through colonial rule and invasion. Humbly acknowledging such facts of history, I once again reflect most deeply and offer apologies from my heart."

He added, "I would like to forge a future-oriented relationship of cooperation based on mutual understanding and confidence with Asian countries by squarely facing up to the past and correctly understanding history."

Mr. Koizumi's words were received skeptically in the region, especially in China and the Korean peninsula. In recent months, Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors have deteriorated sharply over disagreements over history, including Japan's adoption of textbooks that whitewash its wartime past, and Mr. Koizumi's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, the Shinto memorial where Class A war criminals are enshrined along with the war dead.

Indeed, it was an indication of how much history remains unresolved in this part of the world that there was no ceremony like the one in Moscow in May observing the defeat of Nazi Germany, attended by leaders from both Allied and Axis nations. Instead, in China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Malaysia and Australia, speeches, protests and news organizations criticized Japan's perceived lack of real remorse over its militaristic past.

In South Korea, where Aug. 15 is known as Liberation Day from Japanese rule, a visiting North Korean delegation and its South Korean counterpart issued a joint declaration urging the Japanese government to "stop distorting history" and "stop paying reverence to war criminals."

"The Japanese oppressed the Korean people," said Jang Geum Sook, a North Korean delegate who was visiting a Seoul prison used during Japanese colonial rule. "They humiliated women to an unspeakable degree by using them as sex slaves. But even though there are many witnesses to these atrocities, the Japanese continue to distort what they did."

Mr. Koizumi chose not to visit Yasukuni on Monday, ending weeks of intense speculation. But members of his cabinet and about 50 other lawmakers prayed at the shrine, where the account of events in its war museum is that Japan tried to liberate Asian nations from Western powers and was forced by America into attacking Pearl Harbor.

At Yasukuni, members of right-wing groups, holding banners that read, "The Great East Asia War was not a war of invasion," mingled with veterans and youths wearing uniforms from the Imperial Army. But most of the tens of thousands of visitors came simply to pay respects to the war dead.

"Although I don't mean to justify the war, I feel that neighboring countries like China are making a fuss over it," said Yoshio Fujita, 79, an Imperial Army veteran who became an abacus teacher after the war. "I just come here out of pure feeling for those enshrined here."

His friend, Hiroshi Nozaki, 78, who trained for the Imperial Navy, said he wanted Mr. Koizumi to keep his election promise in 2001 that he would visit Yasukuni on Aug. 15. Mr. Koizumi has prayed at Yasukuni every year but on other dates.

"He talked big four years ago, and a politician shouldn't tell a lie," Mr. Nozaki said. "It is pathetic if he doesn't come because foreign countries are making a fuss over it."

Yoshiaki Kikyo, 31, said he knew that Japan "executed terrible operations" in Asia, but he started going to Yasukuni last year after Mr. Koizumi's visits attracted criticism in Asia.

"The more Yasukuni gets attacked by foreign countries, the more I want to attach importance to it," Mr. Kikyo said. "If it hadn't been for the problems between Prime Minister Koizumi and other Asian countries, I probably wouldn't have come here."

Su Hyun Lee contributed reporting from Seoul for this article.

No comments:

Post a Comment