WSJ Editorial: Japan's Unheeded Apologies





Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's latest apology for Japanese behavior in the first half of the 20th century undermines the familiar refrain heard on the streets of Beijing and Seoul: that Japan has yet to atone for its wartime crimes. China's churlish official reaction to the apology shows, on the other hand, that history is less a thorn than a useful card for Beijing to play.

It is one that China's leaders will likely be increasingly tempted to use if Mr. Koizumi's party wins general elections in less than a month's time. An important part of Mr. Koizumi's revolutionary agenda is an attempt to lead Japan out of years of pacifism and toward becoming a "normal nation" -- one that is not so wracked by guilt that it is constrained from playing an international political role commensurate with its economic heft. Beijing will play the history card to try to keep this from happening.

Here's what Mr. Koizumi actually said, according to an English-language translation by Kyodo news: "Our country has caused tremendous damage and pain to the peoples of many countries, especially Asian countries, through colonial rule and invasion. Humbly acknowledging such facts of history, I once again reflect most deeply and offer apologies from my heart as well as express my condolences to all the victims of the last major war both in and out of the country." When is an apology not an apology?

It is the second time that Mr. Koizumi has apologized this year. His words have been similar to those used by former Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995. Like Mr. Murayama's, Mr. Koizumi's apology in the spring was rejected by Japan's critics for not being abject enough....

So what would satisfy Beijing? Despite much speculation that he would pay a visit, Mr. Koizumi stayed away from the controversial Yasukuni Shrine on Monday, the 60th anniversary of Japan's defeat in World War II. Mr. Koizumi's decision to not visit the shrine, a Shinto memorial that honors Japan's war dead, including some war criminals, was most likely a recognition that to do so would have inflamed Japan's Asian neighbors. But rather than praising Mr. Koizumi for this overture, Chinese media was quick to point out that Japanese lawmakers and cabinet ministers visited the shrine, a move that Mr. Kong criticized for not being the "correct" choice.





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vincent vds - 8/19/2005

What would help is not to spend money on a Yamato Museum in Kure (Hiroshima Pref.) Only one example. Apologies without actions are empty words.


vincent vds - 8/19/2005

What would help is not to spend money on a Yamato Museum in Kure (Hiroshima Pref.) Only one example. Apologies without actions are empty words.

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