Volume 4 Number 8
Japan's Turn to Be Generous
01 August 1991

Because Japan has thought only about her own peace, values such as freedom, justice and order, which can be shared with other countries, have become secondary.

Japan's hesitant response to the Gulf crisis, and her failure to send forces to join the Allied effort, have damaged her relations with the US. Even though she eventually underwrote the US military initiative to the tune of US$13 billion - the largest contribution of any country - she has been accused of neglecting her international responsibilities.

Japan's constitution, drafted by the US after World War II, renounced war as a means of settling international disputes. This has sometimes been used as a justification for refusing to shoulder the burdens of other countries. Because Japan has thought only about her own peace, values such as freedom, justice and order, which can be shared with other countries, have become secondary.

In the last 45 years, Japan has benefited from peace. Can she now become a creator of peace? This role demands drastic changes in policy, society and in the national consciousness formed after our defeat in World War II.

If these changes are to take place, we must face history squarely. This December, on the 50th anniversary of our sneak attack on Pearl Harbour, Japan should make some symbolic gesture of regret for the past and commitment to responsible policies in the future.

Never again
There have been instances of Japanese apologies. In 1950, a year before the San Francisco Peace Treaty, a 70-member delegation visited Washington. Speaking in the Senate, a representative of Prime Minister Yoshida expressed `sincere regret' for Japan's actions. Seven years later Prime Minister Kishi toured nine Southeast Asian and Oceanic nations, apologizing in their parliaments.

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping of China visited the late Emperor Hirohito. According to the Grand Chamberlain, quoted recently in the Japanese daily Mainichi, Hirohito apologized to Deng. `From my heart I regret the troubles our country caused to your country by a number of misconducts,' Hirohito said. `It's solely my responsibility. This kind of thing should never happen again.' Deng could not move or speak for a few minutes, says the Grand Chamberlain.

Unfortunately, this incident appears to have been hushed up. So was Hirohito's apology to the President of South Korea in 1984. Even in the last year, the MP and author Shintaro Ishihara stated that the Japanese massacre of over 200,000 Chinese at Nanking in 1937 `is a story made up by the Chinese'. The image still exists abroad that Japan has yet to apologize.

Apology must be translated into action - and this has at last begun. In May - after making an official apology in Singapore to the whole of Asia - Prime Minister Kaifu instructed the Education Ministry to revise schoolbook accounts of 20th century history. There have been recent attempts to clarify the status of third generation Koreans in Japan, and to arrange compensation for Koreans who were living in Hiroshima or Nagasaki when the atomic bombs were dropped and who have since returned to Korea.

Japan must make a special effort to improve its relations with other Asian nations - both on the political and the personal, grass-roots level. Although I belong to the post-war generation, I have made a rule to apologize to other Asians for the past and have found that this can open a door to friendship.

There are lessons for the Gulf area in the way the Allies dealt with Japan after her defeat. China's generalissimo, Chiang Kaishek, opposed Stalin's plan to divide Japan. He did not demand war reparations from Japan, saying that good should overcome the desire for vengeance. Later, thanks to General MacArthur, Japan was allowed to keep her emperor, and sweeping social reforms set her on the road to democracy. Generous aid and a minimum defense burden helped Japan to rebuild.

This magnanimity made possible the `change of mind' of the Japanese people and allowed them to devote themselves to transforming their country into a peaceful state. Should not similar policies be applied in the Gulf region today?

The Japanese apology in the US Senate in 1950 resulted from the delegation's experiences of reconciliation with the family of nations at the MRA conference centre in Caux, Switzerland. As the Japanese had no foreign currency, their travel expenses were covered by private American citizens.

It is now Japan's turn to reciprocate the kindness. Together with international organizations, Japan could promote and fund exchange programmes with the Middle East; giving the world a chance to hear the true sentiments of the Arabs and, perhaps, enabling a `change of mind' in the people of Iraq. This could pave the way to Iraq's re-entry to the international community and prevent further conflict.

Volunteer corps
Japan must also respond to the massive need for reconstruction left by the Gulf War and to poverty in the Middle East. Towards this end, Japan should create a Rehabilitation and Development Cooperation Corps for the Middle East. This would enable the Japanese, who were spared the need to shed blood during the Gulf War, to repay the victims for their sacrifice.

The corps should be made up of people with technical skills and experience appropriate to the countries involved. Business corporations and labour unions in particular should send volunteers. Japanese companies are the foremost beneficiaries of peace; their participation, without any profit motive, will have symbolic significance.

In the future, the corps' work could be extended beyond the Middle East - for instance into rescue work, environmental protection and peace-keeping operations in countries such as Cambodia. Wherever Japanese goods and money can be found, Japanese sweat should also be present, in the service of the needy.

As well as renouncing war, Japan's constitution states that the Japanese people want to participate `in an international society striving for the preservation of peace, and the banishment of tyranny and slavery, oppression and intolerance for all time from Earth'. Each and every Japanese must accept sacrifices and take steps to change corporate conduct and bring about political, administrative and educational reforms. Only then will Japan be capable of making a real international contribution.

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