Despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s warm welcome to the White House, Mr. Abe is likely to be greeted with scorn when he arrives in California: Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA) is the primary champion of a crusade to extract a blanket apology from Mr. Abe for Japanese war crimes perpetrated against Asians, particularly Asian women, during WWII.
On April 23rd, Honda, who represents California’s 17th District and whose family was interred in a detention camp in Colorado during the WWII, addressed a letter to the Japanese ambassador to the United States, Kenichiro Sasae, imploring Mr. Sasae to intervene and ask Mr. Abe to “lay the foundation for healing and humble reconciliation by addressing the historical issues.” In Mr. Abe’s address to Congress, he offered remorse for Japan’s actions during the war, but limited his remarks to the United States. Abe said: (He will) “uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers.”
After Mr. Abe’s address, Mr. Honda remarked: “People say that’s history, that’s in the past, but it’s still alive because the victims are still here. They need their apology for the return of their dignity.”
This is a delicate issue and one which deserves critical evaluation and review.
Japanese crimes against its Asian neighbors are well documented in the West and among Japan’s Asian neighbors; the vast body of evidence describes events which could not possibly be invented by even the most inspired mind. Crimes of unimaginable cruelty, performed without a ration of common humanity, committed by Japan against Chinese, Korean and Filipino women and crimes enacted by Japan’s notorious Unit 731 in China are no throwaway experiences for victims and are crimes which no special pleading or extenuation can nourish for those seeking a just resolution.
It is not shameful to examine mistakes; it is crucial. Japan’s explanations for its conduct are rife with maddening inconsistencies, are insufficient and take no complete account of the hardships faced by victims of Japanese brutality, which infuriate the victims and strain Japan’s relationship with its Asian neighbors. The steadfast refusal to offer a full apology and reluctance to speak honestly distorts the lens of hindsight and creates a murky view of the future.
Mr. Honda’s campaign on behalf of the aggrieved is no aimless, open-ended journey; his effort is fueled by principle.
Mr. Abe: A crucible in which character is forged is conceding error honestly, fully and publicly. To be a responsible steward and benefit others, an official and public expression of regret to Japan’s Asian neighbors is required. If Mr. Abe discovers the strength to offer a genuine apology, he will demonstrate a capacity for grace, remove a pox on Japan’s past, clear Japan’s image problem, silence numerous critics and enjoy a well-meaning and truthful relationship with its Asian neighbors.
Apologies are not strict moral surrogates; however, Japan’s critics need to accept any possible formal apology.[WashingtonPost] [scribd.com] [thehill.com] [unit731.org]