(A) Japanese tatemae: The “deep remorse” statement in Bandung and the “deep repentance” statement to the Joint U.S. Congress without the expression of a sincere apology to the people are the keys in Abe’s speech. Since WWII, Japanese politicians have expressed their deep remorse and deep repentance regarding Japanese WWII activities to many countries on numerous occasions.
Japanese honnen: The Japanese government will never allow any “writings,” whether they are bilateral (such as the Sino-Japanese communique in 1972) or multilateral communiques or treaties (such as the San Francisco Peace Treaty 1952), to indicate legal responsibility for any wartime criminal acts. Avoiding any legal responsibility is considered a victory for the Japanese government. Thus, the Japanese political leaders’ willingness to “apologize a million times” to war victims is the “lip-service” camouflaging the real responsibility of the Japanese government; the deep remorse statements and deep repentance only serve as lip-service for the war victims, without any sincere apologies. Repentance means that both the Japanese and Americans are at fault in the war.
(B) Japanese tatemae: “I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this (wartime) regard,” stated Abe in his U.S. Congress speech. The Murayama Statement in 1995 has served as the bottom line for the Japanese government in regard to making an apology to the Asian people. The fact that there is no further genuine apology (such as Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany, who spontaneously knelt down at the monument for victims of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in December 1970) demonstrates Tokyo leaders showing their sincerity within the international arena.
Japanese honnen: Since its inception in 1955, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) has never made any official sincere apology to anyone regarding the Japanese criminal acts committed during wartime. Murayama is not even a member of the LDP; he is a member of the Japan Socialist Party (JSP). His statement has nothing to do with the LDP’s beliefs (even though the LDP was the ruling party with JSP at that time). In fact, the LDP, which has dictated Japanese politics since WWII (except during the ephemeral era of Hosokawa in 1993 and three years of rule by the Democratic Party of Japan in 2009), has never made any resolutions or a similar Murayama statement to the victims. The LDP is the deeply rooted party that created a number of the right-wingers and conservative politicians inside Japanese politics.
(C) Japanese tatemae: To emphasize, the soi-disant “China threat” in the Asian region is the key to containing the Middle Kingdom. As Prime Minister Abe emphasized in the Bandung Conference, “We should never allow to go unchecked the use of force by the mightier to twist the weaker around. The wisdom of our forefathers in Bandung was that the rule of law should protect the dignity of sovereign nations, be they large or small.” The spirit of the Bandung Conference seems to be in Abe’s mind. Similarly, to stress “democracy” and “peace” numerous times in his speech at the Joint U.S. Congress is against China, which is the totalitarian regime.
Japanese honnen: The current Tokyo regime only focuses on the Japanese who have contributed to peace in the past 70 years since the war, not the history of WWII. Though Abe Shinzo and Xi Jinping both agreed on “history” as the mirror during a 30-minute Sino-Japanese Summit in Indonesia, the Japanese government only stressed the history of the Japanese “peaceful era” after the war, while the Chinese leader believed that the history of WWII between Japan and China should be addressed. The two countries have completely different views of history since WWII. The Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands issue is certainly a concern of the Japanese government, and containing China is the Japanese purpose. The Tokyo regime should realize that Washington may not be able to help Japan when the latter needs a hand. When two Japanese nations were recently butchered by ISIS, the United States was limited in how much it could “help” the Japanese government. This might have also been the case when the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands were broken out in the East China Sea with limited help from Washington (even though the White House insisted that the disputing islands were covered by the Japanese-U.S. security pact).
American InvolvementPeople wonder why the Japanese government has acted so differently from Germany, which was part of the tri-pact in WWII. The reason is simple—the United States has played the major role in the creation of current Japan politics. As a Japanese ally, the United States has “fertilized the soil” to grow right-wingers and fanatics inside Japan. That is, the pilgrimages to the Yasukuni Shrine by right-wing Japanese politicians and the gift sending to the Shrine by prime ministers such as Abe will not be stopped.
First, just as in the current Middle East situation (whether the Sunni or Shiite regime in Iraq or Libya), Washington has shown no interest in Japan’s wartime past (whether is conservative or right-wing regime) as long as the Tokyo regime is a Pro-Washington government. As a result, the United States has stressed less about the Japanese criminal acts of WWII, whether they involve abusing American POWs or killing innocent citizens at Pearl Harbor. As long as Tokyo acts as an “ally” of the United States, the latter can acquiesce everything in the past. Once General Douglas MacArthur, “Japan’s new emperor,” declared that class-A criminals can join in the politics of Japan, the Japanese right-wingers have determined that “Japanese acts during wartime are not bad,” creating an environment for growing Japanese revisionism inside Japan.
Second, the United States has “gotten even” since Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. Because Washington occupied Japan for nearly seven years headed by MacArthur, taken Okinawa as its territory until 1972, and killed over 100,000 “enemies” in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Americans are satisfied they are the “winner” of the war. However, this is not the case for the Chinese and Korean people. The Chinese government waived titanic reparation of the war for the Japanese, while the Korean government received a “token” amount of financial support from Tokyo. Furthermore, the over 100 U.S. bases still stationed all over Japan benefit Washington’s “ally” to balance power in the Asian-Pacific region. Most American base expenses, including water, garbage pickup, etc., are paid by the Japanese taxpayers, which is a beneficial arrangement for the Americans. That is why the United States has not publicly expressed opposition to the pilgrimages to Yasukuni by right-wing and conservative politicians.
Third, Washington can deny involvement in the current fervent disputes between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. After Japan’s lightning attack on Pearl Harbor, the Office of Strategic Services (the OSS, which later became the CIA) obtained a 1939 Japanese map from Glenn Trewartha at the University of Wisconsin, back when the war committees, including the State-War-Navy Coordinating Committee, planned to land on Okinawa. Since the 1940s, Washington has used Senkaku to identify the Sino-Japanese disputes in the East China Sea. It was not until 10 days before Nixon signed the reversion treaty with Japan in 1971 that the White House finally realized the United States had been ensnared in one of the most complicated territorial disputes in the world because of the OSS. Henry Kissinger finally offered a “Band-Aid” solution—strategic ambiguity—which has ultimately become today’s American position concerning the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. During a conversation in the oval office, Kissinger mentioned twice the “six-month” period. If there had been six months before Washington signed the Reversion Treaty with Japan, the White House would have solved the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands problem once and for all. Instead, the Americans have been involved in the Sino-Japanese territorial dispute since the 1940s, and Washington has continued to make errors. The most recent error created by Washington occurred when the current president visited Japan to mention that Sino-Japanese territorial disputes in the East China Sea would be covered by Article 5 of the Japanese-U.S. security pact. Washington has not been concerned about these uninhabited islands in the sea (because Okinawa, which is a much bigger island, returned to Japan) but has continued to play the Sino-Japanese territorial “card” against China and Japan, as Zhou Enlai warned when he met Prime Minister Tanaka Kakuei in September 1972.
Ironically, in the end, almost all issues related to Japanese activities in WWII, such as the Sino-Japanese territorial dispute and Unit 731, directly or indirectly involved the United States. Unlike Chancellor Willy Brandt of West Germany, Abe Shinzo lost a great opportunity to make history in the past by looking forward to the future with Asian countries, especially China and South Korea. As Rana Mitter states in Forgotten Ally: China’s World War, 1937–1945, Washington was an ally with the Chinese in the fight against Japan’s aggression during wartime. The United States switched its “allegiance” from Beijing to Tokyo when Mao Zedong took over China in 1949. Thus, the day the Japanese prime minister addressed the Asian-African Summit as part of the events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Bandung Conference in Indonesia, Ex-Nazi soldier, 93-year-old Osakar Gröning, was finally arrested. This symbolized the difference in attitude toward war crimes between Japan and Germany. Have any Japanese been prosecuted for abuse of Chinese human rights inside Unit 731? Have any Japanese been indicted for coercing and kidnapping Chinese girls to be “comfort women” servicing Japanese soldiers during wartimes? Have any Japanese been prosecuted for POW abuse during wartimes? Did any Japanese take responsibility for abandoning biological and chemical weapons inside China during the Tokyo trial? The answer is negative. All these criminal acts against humanity carried out by Japanese soldiers during wartimes can be forgotten or forgiven as long as the “Big brother” in Washington remains silent or acquiescent. Today, the Japanese government plays down these wartime events, because legal responsibility is not Tokyo’s concern. Seventy years after WWII, “proactive peace” diplomacy is the priority for the Tokyo regime’s propaganda efforts to make Japan “look good” on the world stage. This proactive peace diplomacy might lead the Japanese people in a different direction in the future, because the current Japanese regime has changed to allow the export of weapons overseas, to permit the participation of the self-defense forces in the war zone as “collective defense” acts, and to change Article 9 in the near future.