The most hopeful case in favor of the '65 System can be stated as the following: it was the politics of the possible. No, the core historical issue of whether Japan's colonization was legitimate was never addressed—but it was not possible to resolve that issue in 1965 at any rate. Why not begin the bilateral relationship with Japan and South Korea, and build a strong tie based on economic and security cooperation? Then later, the strong bilateral tie between the two countries could be leveraged to find true resolution on the historical issues when the wound from history is less raw.
Until around 2010, with prime minister Kan Naoto's moving statement, this hopeful case seemed to be well under way. But looking back, it was right around this time when the '65 System began running out of runway. As it turned out, Japan's reckoning with history was skin-deep, limited to a small circle of liberals who held the top offices of the government without being able to hold onto the the structure underneath them. The success of Japan's liberals was a flimsy one, only serving to cause a backlash.
|Abe Shinzo visits Yasukuni Shrine, in which Class A war criminals |
from World War II are memorialized. c 2013 (source)
In reaction to the 1995 Murayama Statement that apologized for Japan’s colonial rule, more than 160 Japanese legislators formed a group called the Alliance of Legislators for the 50 Year Anniversary of the End of War [終戰 50週年 國會議員 聯盟] to oppose the statement. Taking the center stage of the group is a young politician named Abe Shinzo, grandson of war-criminal-turned-prime-minister Kishi Nobusuke. So vocal was Abe against Japan’s recognition of its imperial past, some at the time thought Abe was not looking to be a prime minister in the future, because his stance was utterly beyond the pale. When Kan gave his forthright statement of apology in 2010, Abe cursed at Kan on live television.
Abe has had ties with the far-right group Nippon Kaigi, which believes Japan began World War II to defend itself and protect Asia, Imperial Japan’s war crimes like the Comfort Women or the Nanjing Massacre were fabricated, and the Tokyo War Tribunal was illegitimate. The overriding goal for Nippon Kaigi, which Abe shares, is to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution to a constitution that allows for standing military and emphasizes obligations to the society over individual rights.
There is little doubt that Abe has faithfully subscribed to Nippon Kaigi's mission statement. As the prime minister, Abe questioned "whether Japan had committed aggression" against anyone during the war, indicated he would not uphold the 1995 Murayama statement, and refused to accept the judgment of the Tokyo Tribunal. To top it off, Abe Shinzo visited the Yasukuni Shrine on August 15, 2013, to pay respect to the Class A war criminals on the anniversary of the end of World War II, and again on December 26, 2013. By early 2014, Abe administration was flirting with the possibility of withdrawing the Kono Statement that acknowledged Japan's use of wartime sex slaves during World War II.
(More after the jump.)
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