During and prior to World War II, both Germany and Japan committed numerous atrocities, of which the Holocaust and the Japanese “comfort women” might merely be the most well known. After their respective surrenders, Germany was forced to take responsibility for its horrible acts, but Japan was not. To this day, most Japanese leaders are reluctant, at best, to even acknowledge that they might have made any mistakes in their conduct of the war. Some Japanese Diet members have even gone as far as saying that anyone who acknowledges and apologizes for the atrocities that Japan very obviously committed during the war has a “masochistic view of history”.*
Why is this an issue? Japanese Prime Minister Shinto Abe is set to address a joint session of the United States on April 29th. Abe’s actions with regards to his country’s wartime history should be unsettling to any American. As Ethan Epstein at the Weekly Standard summarizes things:
Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe did not go into his line of work to make friends. Since regaining the premiership in 2012, Abe has made a habit of insulting Japan’s neighbors and allies. He’s denied, in the face of copious evidence, that the Imperial Japanese Army used hundreds of thousands of Korean women as sex slaves, and he’s prayed at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals. According to a report in the Guardian, Abe has also “hinted that he will not repeat previous official apologies for Japan’s wartime conduct in a highly anticipated statement to mark the anniversary of the end of the Pacific war.”
April 29th is Showa Day, the birthday of Emperor Hirohito, known posthumously as the Emperor Showa. He was the monarch who saw the country through World War II, and setting the date of Abe’s speech on his birthday disrespects both our own veterans and our other allies in Asia who suffered at Japan’s hands.
Japan is one of our closest allies. I do not mean to suggest that Abe not speak to Congress. Merely, like Epstein, I ask that they reschedule his speech for a different time during the Prime Minister’s eight day trip to the United States.
*=On that note, I highly recommend this piece from Fr. William Grimm of Catholic News Asia on why Japan struggles with repentance for its acts.